Selfie stations planned for next provincial election

Social media is hot, says Elections Nova Scotia. Newspaper ads are not.

If you vote in an election and don't share it on Instagram, does it even really count? - VIA ISTOCK
via iStock
If you vote in an election and don't share it on Instagram, does it even really count?
Reversing low voter turnout in Nova Scotia could be as simple as a case of FOMO.

According to Elections Nova Scotia, selfie stations will likely be set up at polling locations in the next general election to try and encourage more young people to participate in the democratic process.

The structures were tested out as a pilot project during last summer’s Halifax Needham byelection. A report by Nova Scotia's chief electoral officer says each selfie station featured a life-size image of Rick Mercer, “widely recognized for his strong voice on democracy.” 

Those leaving the polling station could snap a pic next to Mercer and under the phrase "I  voted..." while holding up one of several provided answers, including “because it is my right,” “because I wanted to be heard” and “Yay!”

The posters would have to be set up outside polling stations, as photography inside those locations is illegal for anyone except for party leaders, their opponents and ballot scrutineers who are allowed to send pics of the crossed-off voter lists to their parties.

Clause 99 of the Election Act, which makes it illegal for anyone to take a photo of a ballot with any electronic device at a polling stations, was the result of the Contrarian’s Parker Donham famously tweeting his provincial ballot in 2013 (and his federal ballot two years later).

Burchells lawyer Jason Cooke argued at the time that the photo didn’t breach any provisions of the act and Donham’s freedom of speech was protected by Canada's Charter. Nova Scotia’s chief electoral officer subsequently dropped the charges (and potential $5,000 fine) saying there wasn’t a “likelihood of conviction under the current provisions of the Elections Act.”

Halifax Needham's selfie pilot was executed last summer without any news release or social media notice, which likely didn’t help the overall poor voter turnout for the August 30 election that was won by NDP MLA Lisa Roberts. Only 32 percent of eligible voters in the riding cast a ballot. For voters under 24, the turnout was even worse—just 17 percent.

The report by Elections NS is also recommending the province eliminate current requirements to give notice of elections by purchasing newspaper ads. That bit of legislation is a “throwback” to the days when “there were few alternatives to newspapers as the primary means of informing the public.”

Sending out direct mail notices to Nova Scotia's 400,000 eligible households would reach a far greater percentage of voters at “significantly lower cost” than buying ads in the province's largest daily newspaper, which the report estimates only reaches 100,000 people (or about 14 percent of eligible voters).

The chief electoral officer is also recommending Nova Scotia ban all government advertising during an election, save for public notices about health, safety or environmental dangers.

Nova Scotia's next provincial election has to take place by October, 2018, but will probably happen later this year provided everybody cools it with the protests and strikes already.

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