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Stephen





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 645
Reputation: 72.9
votes: 5
Location: Ontario

PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2006 8:27 pm    Post subject: Fighting for Freedom on Election Night Reply with quote

Quote:
GERRY NICHOLLS

Special to Globe and Mail Update

The Supreme Court of Canada is hearing a historic case Monday that's just as much about communications technology as it is about the law.

The law in question is Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act. This section, enacted in 1938, bans what's officially called the "premature transmission" of voting results on election night. Under this law it's a crime to let Canadians living in parts of the country where the polls are still open know what's going on election-wise in parts of the country where the polls are closed.

Essentially, Section 329 is a blackout law or, to put it less delicately, censorship.

Can such election censorship be justified in a free and democratic society?

Paul Bryan, a computer software developer from Coquitlam, B.C., doesn't think so. And he is the Canadian who with the financial support of the National Citizens Coalition brought this case before the Supreme Court. His goal is simple: to convince the Court to scrap what he considers an election gag law.

Mr. Bryan believes Section 329 is an infringement on his Charter-guaranteed right to free expression. He believes it's wrong to ban the free flow of political information on election night or any other night for that matter.

As well as Mr. Bryan's arguments of principle, the Court will also have to consider something else: Are blackout laws even enforceable in this age of the Internet and satellite communication?

Communications technology, after all, has come a long way since 1938. We now live in an era of instantaneous, easily accessible information, meaning government simply cannot keep information under wraps the way it once did.

Remember what happened when the Gomery commission tried to impose a blackout on some explosive testimony? The "banned" information appeared on somebody's blog literally within hours. So much for official secrecy.

Indeed, Mr. Bryan's battle against Section 329 began on election night 2000 when, to prove a point, he posted real-time election results on his website www.electionresultscanada.com

He didn't project winners. He just posted raw voting information from Atlantic Canada, so Canadians who wanted to, could see what was going on. It seemed like a harmless act. In fact, any Canadian with Internet access could have found the same information that night on the websites of news organizations such as CNN, Yahoo and ABC News.

Within two weeks of election night, Elections Canada officials, assisted by the RCMP, went to Mr. Bryan's home to search his files and computer equipment. They seized his computer hard drives and credit card statements. A few months later, Mr. Bryan was charged with violating the law, meaning he faced a fine of up to $25,000.

But Mr. Bryan was not about to let bureaucrats push him around or cow him into giving up on his principles. He fought back and took his case to court. It has been a long, costly six-year legal battle for him, with ups and downs and victories and defeats.

But now the case is heading to the highest court in the land for the final legal showdown. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is intervening to support Mr. Bryan's constitutional position as are several media outlets including the CBC, CTV, Sun Media, the Canadian Press, Rogers Broadcasting, CanWest and the Globe and Mail.

It's not hard to see why the media are getting involved in this case.

Journalists are paid to disseminate information; not suppress it. Yet Section 329 essentially forces the media to censor themselves every election night.

That's something no journalist likes to do.

And, of course, this case is not just about the right of the media to present election news, it's also about the right of Canadians to hear election news.

Freedom of expression, is, after all, a two-way street.

So how can a blackout law be justified in a free and democratic society?

How can we justify a law that denies a core democratic freedom, such as the right to free speech? Can you justify a law that modern technology has made obsolete?

The answer is no It's time to kill this archaic and undemocratic gag law.!

Gerry Nicholls is vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition.
FF_Canuck





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 3360
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Location: Southern Alberta

PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2006 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I'm usually onside with what the NCC puts out, I can't fully support them on this one. The law prohibiting premature broadcasting is in place for a very good reason - study after study has demonstrated that advance results affect voting patterns.

In our own political past, this was manipulated frequently by the incumbent parties, who rigged the timing of votes to ensure 'landslide ridings' results were reported before most voters went to the polls.

That being said, there's no reason why we can't (or shouldn't) now set up voting so that it occurs simultaneously nation-wide. It would make such manipulation totally impossible, and totally remove the need for this law.
Mac





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 5500
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votes: 35
Location: John Baird's riding...

PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Voting does take place simultaneously. It's the closing times and ballot count announcements which cause the problem... if it is truly a problem. I've heard it said that studies showed knowledge of results from other jurisdiction affects results in other jurisdictions but no-one ever seems to know who conducted those studies, the methodology, etc.

I would say the Liberals have a vested interest in suppressing the results. You see, if the west, particularly BC, knew that Ontario (for instance) had gone solidly Liberal yet again, they might vote even more solidly Conservative, effectively wiping out the NDP and Liberals in the west. This might not sway the election but it could make the difference between a majority and a minority... plus every vote means $$$ for the party.

-Mac
McGuire





Joined: 05 Sep 2006
Posts: 369
Reputation: 20.2Reputation: 20.2
Location: Soviet Pictouwestistan

PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It does contribute to voter suppression. It would likely help the Liberals win a number of seats they may not win otherwise.
FF_Canuck





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 3360
Reputation: 73.4
votes: 17
Location: Southern Alberta

PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2006 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
This might not sway the election but it could make the difference between a majority and a minority...


And as much as I want a Conservative majority, this kind of influence isn't the way to achieve one, IMHO. Its not very pragmatic, but I'd rather people voted in Conservatives based on their belief that we offer the best policies and ideas to strengthen our nation.
Buddy Kat





Joined: 24 Sep 2006
Posts: 94
Reputation: 24.6Reputation: 24.6
votes: 1
Location: Saskatchewan

PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Polling during an election should be banned also. Nothing influences people more than polls. I can see polls for issues and inbetween elections being important , but trying to influence the actual voting system via a private polling corporation during an election is bad.
McGuire





Joined: 05 Sep 2006
Posts: 369
Reputation: 20.2Reputation: 20.2
Location: Soviet Pictouwestistan

PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I dunno about a complete ban, but maybe limit it during the last week of a campaign.
Stephen





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 645
Reputation: 72.9
votes: 5
Location: Ontario

PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 4:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shouldn't we be entitled to as much information as possible in order to inform our decision?

Polling during an election should not be illegal.
Bleatmop





Joined: 03 Sep 2006
Posts: 953
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votes: 10

PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 6:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stephen wrote:
Shouldn't we be entitled to as much information as possible in order to inform our decision?

Polling during an election should not be illegal.


I'm fine with polls, but with knowing actual election results before a polling booth is closed is election tampering in my opinion.
Mac





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 5500
Reputation: 104
votes: 35
Location: John Baird's riding...

PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How can we know the actual results if the polls are open? What would happen if a last minute flood of people changed that results?

There are so many ways to address this that it should be a non-issue.

If Elections Canada really feels that strongly about results from one jurisdiction influencing another, they could stop publishing the results until the next day. That would be a stressful night for the politicians... not knowing if they've won or lost... but it would ensure no-one was influenced.

-Mac
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Fighting for Freedom on Election Night

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