Monday, January 23, 2006

Big deal

The CBC website is moaning that election coverage can't start until 10pm Eastern time. That's because that's when the polls in British Columbia close (7pm Pacific time). CBC stations in various parts of Canada are allowed to post results from polls closed so far, so in Ontario they will be allowed broadcast results from 9.30 eastern, but BC stations will be showing something else until 10.

It eludes me what is to be gained by publicising the results while people anywhere in Canada are still going to the polls, as they used at the last election. Even if polls in Ontario are not closing now until 30 minutes before, it's a principle which should be protected. I also think returning officers should be precluded from releasing any results in progress until this time, so the Newfs would just have to wait for their counterparts on the other coast. Better yet - don't count until the following day. Just because something is technically possible doesn't mean it should be done.

Why should B.C. voters, no matter how many, potentially have information the rest of the country doesn't? Anyone who thinks it doesn't affect turnout even slightly is in a dream world (or running an election results internet site, or the National Citizens Coalition, Harper's old mob), and some B.C. seats will probably be very tight races indeed. Asymmetric information is just plain bad for democracy. Hooray for the British Columbia Court of Appeal (and the Supremes for denying a stay pending full hearing).

(Edited with clarification of the difference between tv and internet coverage)
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