Posting Election Results Before Polls Close is Illegal in Canada
It's a legal struggle that took years to reach a conclusion, in 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada handed down a final ruling that will have serious consequences for anyone hoping to broadcast election results before polls in other time zones close.
Canada has six different time zones making early reporting of election results on the East coast an issue in previous elections. Ontario and Quebec have always held a combined majority of the seats in Canada's House of Commons, currently they hold 59% of the 308 seats in the House, and many times the fate of the election had been decided in the East before the polls had even closed out West. For many people out West, this led to a serious lack of interest in federal politics.
To combat the problem of voter apathy out West, a legislated media blackout was introduced in 1938 that banned the publication of any election results before all polls close. The "gag law" clause of the Elections Act precluded any person or entity from publishing election results prior to the closure of all the polling stations in Canada. The gag law was challenged by British Columbia software designer Paul Brandt in 2000, claiming his constitutional rights as protected under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms was violated by the law.
Brandt published Eastern election results on the Internet during the 2000 election and was subsequently charged, convicted, and fined for that act. He challenged his conviction, and in 2003 the British Columbia Supreme Court agreed that the law violated Brandt's Charter Rights. As a result, it was legal to broadcast results during Canada's 2004 election, and many media outlets did just that. In 2005 the BC Court if Appeals overturned that decision, effectively reinstating the Canada Election Act gag law. This was further supported by a 2007 ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada that unequivocally stated the gag law did not violate Charter Rights.
Now polls across Canada close at staggered intervals to combat the problem of early poll results reporting on the Internet by anonymous renegade citizens. This means that polls in Ontario and Quebec are open until 9:30 pm EST, while polls in BC close at 7pm PST. The new provisions for staggered polling station close times came as a direct result of Brandt's (temporarily) successful challenge to the Canada Elections Act gag law clause.
The media blackout of election results brings up a number of interesting questions, as it did during the famous Gomery inquiry and the Carla Homolka trial - reports from the courts were being published by American bloggers and media unaffected by the bans. Canadians can then easily just Google that information.
So who, really, is any of this protecting, aside from American media interests?
Canadians go to the polls to vote for their next government on October 14, 2008.
Prohibition – premature transmission of results
329. No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district.
Broadcasting outside Canada
330. (1) No person shall, with intent to influence persons to vote or refrain from voting or vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate at an election, use, aid, abet, counsel or procure the use of a broadcasting station outside Canada, during an election period, for the broadcasting of any matter having reference to an election.
The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a legal ban on reporting early vote results on federal election nights in regions of the country where the polls are still open.
In a 5-4 decision, the top court ruled the section of the Canada Elections Act that bans the publication of voting results until all federal polls close on election night does not violate the Charter of Rights.
In broadcasting, a blackout is when certain programming, usually sports, cannot be televised in a certain media market.
The purpose is theoretically to generate more money by obligating certain actions from fans, either by making them buy tickets or watch other games on TV. While financially a logical procedure on the part of those providing the programming, blackouts are frequently unpopular with the affected audience.
Some information on what you need when you go to vote:
There's also a searchable database that shows you where you can vote and who is running in your riding:
The Voter Information Service provides information on your electoral district and member of Parliament. Select one of the options below to find your electoral district.