Physically the second largest country in the world, with ten provinces and three territories stretching across six time zones and touching three oceans, pulling off a national election in a country like Canada is no small feat in any respect. But one election law is making it that much tougher.
The Canada Elections Act states that no results from any part of the country where the polls are closed should be broadcast or otherwise communicated to an area where polls are still open. This law ostensibly prevents people in the West from seeing the media declare the election results a done deal by 4 pm, thus prompting them to decide to either not vote or to change their vote based on more easterly results.
In order to comply with the law, on May 2, television stations will roll their election broadcasts west from Newfoundland to British Columbia as the polls close, and news websites will hold the election results until all voting is complete. However, plenty of election watchers, including myself, will be discussing the results in real-time on Facebook, Twitter and other social media – which, as Elections Canada made clear yesterday, is against the law and could result in a whopping $25,000 CAD ($26,275 USD) fine.
The irony is that plenty of people are only engaged in this election *because* of social media. Tweets, liveblogs, up-to-the-second breaking news and the constant availability of someone to talk to about this party’s latest gaffe or that party’s latest announcement keep this ADD-filled generation engaged. So to tell this crowd that they can’t discuss election results as they happen through the media they’re accustomed to using is certainly counterintuitive in a country that’s been suffering from abysmally low voter turnout.
As would be expected, Twitter isn’t taking this lying down. There’s even talk of a Tweet-In on election night to flout the law and show Elections Canada exactly how useless this antiquated law has become in 2011. As @denisgagnonjr said on Twitter, “Either we flood the system and [Elections Canada] gets overwhelmed, or we all get fined and end up paying for #elxn41. Win-win!”
Photo credit: ComputerMonger on Flickr