Elections NS will hold back poll-by-poll results until month’s end

In a break with decades of past practice, Nova Scotia elections officials say they will withhold detailed results of the October 7 8 election for almost a month. In previous provincial elections, newspapers published poll-by-poll results a day or two after the vote.

At a time when the internet has encouraged governments of all shapes and sizes to be more forthcoming with useful data, Elections Nova Scotia is moving in the opposite direction.

Dana Phillip Doiron, director of policy and communications, declined to explain the policy change except to say the Chronicle-Herald “had no interest” in publishing this election’s poll-by-poll results, and Chief Electoral Officer Richard P. Temporale decided to wait until official results are ready at month’s end.

Differences between the preliminary and official results are usually small, and rarely affect the outcome in any riding.

Doiron declined to let Contrarian publish preliminary poll-by-poll results, and did not respond to a request for an interview with the Temporale.

For those who weren’t around, it’s hard to capture the degree to which this reversal of longstanding openness about election results represents a throwback to attitudes that prevailed in Nova Scotia’s bureaucracy 40 years ago. It’s like walking into government office and finding shag carpet on the floor, lava lamps on the desks, and Wayne Newton on the P.A.

To be sure, some government departments still work hard to avoid disclosing embarrassing information, exploiting loopholes in the Freedom of Information law and the near total breakdown of its enforcement in the province. It’s a standard damage control tactic.

But this is different. Nothing in the poll-by-poll results could conceivably embarrass Temporale or his agency. He is withholding the information because he can. He has decided, in his wisdom, that we don’t need to have it, notwithstanding keen interest among political geeks eager to dig into it.

Father knows best. Mere citizens can wait.

Forty years ago, Temporale’s instinctual proprietary impulse was nearly universal in Halifax. Bureaucrats regarded information in their custody as personal property, and citizens seeking access to it as unworthy supplicants.

Ironically, election results were always an exception to these attitudes of yore. Unlike Elections Nova Scotia of 2013, responsible officials in the ’50s and ’60s saw the prompt release of election results as their duty.

Here is Contrarian’s email exchange with Doiron:

From: Parker Donham
Sent: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 10:59 PM
To: Doiron, Dana P
Subject: poll-by-poll results

Hi Dana,

In almost 40 years of covering and following NS elections, I cannot ever recall it taking so long to see poll-by-poll returns. In years past, they were in the paper within two days of the election. What gives?

(I just checked the http://results.electionsnovascotia.ca/ website, and at this moment, it appears to be down. http://electionsnovascotia.ca/ is functioning normally.)

Cheers,
Parker

From: “Doiron, Dana P”
Subject: RE: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 11:56:40 AM ADT
To: ‘Parker Donham’

The poll by poll results will be published at the end of the month. The website is working fine for me. Unsure of source of your problem.

D.

From: Parker Donham
Sent: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 12:44 PM
To: Doiron, Dana P
Subject: Re: poll-by-poll results

It was probably a momentary thing, and quite possibly at me end

Why on earth are you taking so long to publish the results?

Sent from my iPhone

From: “Doiron, Dana P”
Subject: RE: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 12:48:48 PM ADT
To: ‘Parker Donham’

The poll by poll results you may have seen in the past are the unofficial count before “official addition” and the return of the writ. The Herald customarily published them within a couple of days of election night. The Herald had no interest in doing that this election. The CEO decided to publish the official results, poll-by-poll, as quickly as possible, together with maps and other data.

D

From: Parker Donham
Sent: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 1:38 PM
To: Doiron, Dana P
Subject: Re: poll-by-poll results

Dana,

Contrarian is interested in publishing them. Can I get them?

Cheers,
Parker

Sent from my iPhone

From: “Doiron, Dana P”
Subject: RE: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 2:25:04 PM ADT
To: ‘Parker Donham’

Not until we’ve published them.

d

From: Parker DonhamSubject:
Re: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 4:28:57 PM ADT
To: “Doiron, Dana P”

Hi Dana:

Can you offer any explanation why? This data has previously been available much sooner. I just find the change in policy mystifying. Most organizations are publishing their data quicker now that it is so easy to do so on the Internet. Elections NS seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

If the answer is that it’s what the Chief Electoral Officer decided, could you please arrange an interview with him for tomorrow?

Thanks very much,
Parker

[As of this posting, there was no response.]


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