"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Electoral deadlines

As of this evening January 18, 2015, Elections Newfoundland and Labrador has still not published party financial disclosures for 2013.

This is a perennial problem. The financial disclosures for the seven calendar years from 2012 through 2006, inclusive, were not published until, respectively, 374, 359, 431, 348, 331, 483, and 436 days after the close of that year. On an average, it takes Elections NL until the end of January to disclose party and candidate financials from the calendar year two years before.

Oh — and the annual report for 2011, which did sneak in under the wire before 2012 came to a close, failed to distinguish regular contributions to political parties from those made during the campaign period, as required by s. 299 of the Elections Act. Elections NL has still not explained this lack of disclosure.

Elections NL has not published any candidate's campaign finance documentation for any of the by-elections held so far during the life of the current legislature, including two — Cartwright–L'anse au Clair and Carbonear–Harbour Grace — which were held two calendar years ago, in 2013. Nor is there any sign of that for the Virginia Waters by-election, held nine months ago in April 2014.

It is probably too much to expect that the financial reports from more recent by-elections — St. George's–Stephenville East in August, and Conception Bay South, Humber East, and Trinity–Bay de Verde — would yet be available. But it is not too much to expect the release by now of the detailed, official poll-by-poll voting results of those by-elections, given the relatively light work that such a job would entail. But no: there is no sign of them, either.

The most recent by-election report is that for Virginia Waters, which is dated September 23, 2014 — 167 days after polling day. On average, since 2003, it has taken Elections NL nearly four months to publish official by-election results. Entire, large provinces report the poll-by-polls of their entire general elections in less time. It takes Elections NL, on average, the entire nine months they are given by statute, to publish poll-by-poll results of a general election. This, in the second-least-populous province, and in an era when other provincial electoral offices are able to do so in mere weeks, or even days. This is a perennial problem, but not one which causes Elections NL any embarrassment.

They would appear to be incapable of it.

There's more. Of course there's more. Even after Elections NL finally gets around to "publishing" its report — it defines "publishing" as sending a copy to the legislative library — it can take additional weeks for the House of Assembly to accept the report, either by tabling it or deeming it tabled. There are entire swathes of by-electoral history which have never been tabled in the House of Assembly, for reasons unknown.

In the last two sets of by-elections, Elections NL has even managed to publish the wrong preliminary count on election night in Humber East and Conception Bay South, even as the scrutineers for one of the political parties, working from the exact same set of election-night Deputy Returning Officer tallies, came up with the correct figure before their victory parties were even shut down.

(And don't even think of asking for the same type of digital district and polling-division boundary files that other electoral officers routinely make available for download.)

All of which is why it would be funny, if it weren't so serious, that Elections Newfoundland and Labrador has given everyone a heads-up that they are setting a pretty firm deadline for the redrawing of the provincial electoral boundaries:

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