Bloggers at Odds With Election Law in Canada

Canada’s 70-year-old law to control the release of voting results on election night has again stumbled in the age of the Internet.

Within minutes of polls closing on Canada’s Atlantic Coast on Tuesday, bloggers were making the results known in parts of the country were voting was still going on.

“I believe the polls have just closed in Newfoundland so gentlemen, to your mark, ready, go,” read a posting from a blogger writing under the moniker The Surly Beaver.

The results showing the Liberals were losing seats in that region hinted at the final outcome that saw Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper win a stronger minority government.

That would violate a 1938 law aimed at preventing knowledge of results in Eastern Canada from influencing voting in a later time zone, a spokeswoman for Elections Canada said on Wednesday.

The law was aimed at radio broadcasts in a country with six time zones, and has been difficult to enforce with the invention of the Internet.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last year the law did not violate the free speech rights of a British Columbia man who posted the early results on the Internet.

University of Victoria political scientist Dennis Polin said experience in the United States has shown that news of early results in the east can influence voter actions in later western time zones.

Canadian broadcasters and most news agencies adhered to law on Tuesday, although there was a problem involving CBC-TV in Vancouver that briefly showed some results before polls closed in the Pacific Coast city.

A CBC spokesman said he believes the problem on its Newsworld news network originated with a local cable television provider. The broadcast was cut off just as Green Party leader Elizabeth May began speaking, leaving her face frozen on the screen in mid sentence for several minutes

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