Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Election Gag Law

So the courts have stuck down parts of the election gag law. I am mixed about how I feel about this.

I am a fan of free speech and really do not like any restrictions of free speech. But I have a concern about the 3rd party advertising in the elections because most of it is negative advertising.

The research is showing how negative advertising impacts an election is by depressing the vote for a specific political party. This data bothers me because it lowers voter turn out in elections.

As an example of the impact of negative campaigning, take a look at the results in Saanich and Gulf Islands. I would have expected the turn out in the riding to have been about 69 000 based on the nature of the race and the expected rise in population. Turn out was 4500 lower than that. I suspect that the majority of these voters were people that did not vote for the NDP.

If we get a storm of negative campaigning against the NDP and the Liberals between now and April 14th, I expect this depress the voter turn out province wide. In a perfect world I would ban negative campaigning, but there is no way I could see that happening and not being more of a problem than the solution it would bring. And yes, I would have real trouble with the restriction on freedom of speech.

If we are going to allow negative campaigning, we also need mandatory voting. This is one way to ensure that the voter turn out is not depressed through negative campaigning.

One major reason I like BC STV is that the effectiveness of negative campaigning is dramatically lessened as a campaign tool. I am not claiming there would be no negative campaigning. Smart candidates and parties will find ways to reach across party lines to get secondary preferences in the election.

1 comment:

Geoff S said...

I agree 100% Bernard. Money shouldn't dictate an election outcome anymore then negative advertising.

One thing I found interesting are the "Gordon Campbell Hates You" advertisements. The first one was just awful in terms of negative advertising while the second one was much less critical. My hope is that they realized that they were turning people off the election though that is probably wishful thinking.