VANCOUVER – Candidates in British Columbia’s election could knock on all the doors they wanted to on Tuesday as voters headed to the polls, but they better not have tweeted about it.
Mainstreeting was no problem, so long as no evidence made its way onto Instagram.
That is the reality created by the province’s 17-year-old election law, drafted long before the Internet — much less social media — had become such an integral part of the lives of candidates and voters.
It also prompted Elections BC to warn candidates and parties who had broken the rules to delete their offending social media posts.
“Under the Election Act, candidates cannot tweet on general voting day, and they know this,” Elections BC spokesman Don Main said in an interview Tuesday.
“A candidate from one of the parties was tweeting since midnight last night, so the party has been contacted to advise all of their candidates that they cannot tweet on general voting day, and any tweets that have been posted since midnight last night need to be removed.”
The Election Act prohibits a number of activities on voting day, including broadcasting or transmitting election-related advertising, which Elections BC has interpreted to include online social media postings.
Main said the agency was alerted that Liberal candidate Richard Lee, who is running in Burnaby North, had been tweeting Tuesday. Elections BC told the Liberal party to ensure the tweets were deleted, said Main, and they were.
But it wasn’t difficult to find other candidates who had been posted to Twitter on election day.
They included NDP Leader Adrian Dix, whose most recent tweet was timestamped at about 6 a.m., when he wrote: “From Hope to Langley to Vancouver to Burnaby, back to Vancouver. The energy from our campaigns everywhere is impressive.” Dix had been finishing up a whirlwind, 24-hour tour of the province.
Michelle Stilwell, the Liberal candidate in Parksville-Qualicum, used Twitter to thank people for voting around noon on Tuesday. About the same time, Liberal Norm Letnick in Kelowna-Lake Country urged his followers to vote.
Mike McLoughlin, the Conservative candidate in Kelowna-Mission, was among several members of his party who were prolific tweets on voting day.
And Gary Young, an Independent candidate in Cariboo-Chilcotin, practically dared Elections BC to do something about his many tweets on voting day, writing: “The law breaking tweets… nothing will happen, consider the Balanced budget Act that does NOTHING.”
Elections BC’s enforcement is driven by complaints, said Main, though he said the agency also monitors Twitter and Facebook on its own. He could not say what, if anything, will happen to candidates who tweeted on voting day.
Main declined to comment whether the law still makes sense, though he noted the chief electoral officer has the power to weigh into that issue after the election.
“Under the Election Act, the chief electoral officer has the authority to recommend changes to the after an electoral event,” he said.
“I don’t know if that (how the law affects social media) will be considered or not. We will evaluate after the election how widespread these things were.”
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version referred to Monday