Election silence

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Election silence, [1] blackout period, [2] [3] [4] pre-election silence, electoral silence, or campaign silence [5] is a ban on political campaigning or media coverage of a general election, before or during that election.



In some jurisdictions, such as Slovenia, Poland and Nepal, it is forbidden to try to convince people to vote for a specific candidate or political party on the day of election. Some jurisdictions have declared that, legally, election silence is in violation of law regarding freedom of speech. It is however used in some of the world's democracies "in order to balance out the campaigning and maintain a free voting environment". [5] Whereas in others, a more limited form of 'silence' operates where the media are prevented from commenting on campaign activities on polling day, and/or publication of opinion polls is illegal.

An election silence operates in some countries to allow a period for voters to reflect on events before casting their votes. [5] [ need quotation to verify ] During this period no active campaigning by the candidates is allowed. Often polling is also banned. The silence is generally legally enforced, though in some countries it is just a "gentlemen's agreement" between leading[ citation needed ] parties. [5]

Usage and practice


Election silences are observed in the following countries, amongst others. Their duration, before the election, is given in parentheses:


The Constitutional Court of Bulgaria ruled in 2009 that both electoral silence and ban on opinion polls before the election day represented a violation of freedom of speech.[ citation needed ]


It is not permitted to "transmit election advertising to the public in an electoral district on polling day before the close of all of the polling stations in the electoral district". [12]

Prior to the 2015 Canadian federal election, [37] the distribution of election results in regions of the country where polls have not yet closed was banned, so results from ridings in the Eastern and Atlantic provinces would not influence results in the west. [38] This was upheld as lawful in a 2007 decision of the Supreme Court, R v Bryan . [38] [39] In January 2012, the Government announced it would repeal the prohibition "[as it] does not make sense with the widespread use of social media and other modern communications technology", upon the urging of the then Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand. [40] [41] [42] It was repealed by the Fair Elections Act on June 19, 2014. [43]

Although media organisations are not permitted to be present for the count of results or to enter polling rooms, they may shoot video or photos from outside of a polling room as long as the secrecy of the ballot is maintained and access to the room is not impeded. [44]

Between 1993 and 1998, the distribution of election surveys 74 hours before election day was banned. This was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada as violating section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Thomson Newspapers Co v Canada (AG) . [40] [45]


The Constitutional Court of Slovenia ruled in 2011 that a ban on opinion polls was unconstitutional. [46]

Until 2016, any mention of the candidate on the day of election was prohibited. Those who published positive or critical statements about parties or candidates on social media, online forums, or stated them for example in restaurants, were prosecuted and fined. [47] For over two decades, media and voters refrained from talking about politics on the day before the elections and on election day. In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that "not every opinion is propaganda", published a new definition of the term 'propaganda' and reverted a lower court judgement, which convicted a person who published "Great interview! Worth reading!" on Facebook. [48] [49] [50]


The Constitutional Court of Hungary ruled in 2007 that a ban on opinion polls was unconstitutional, but upheld electoral silence. [51]

United States

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burson v. Freeman (1992) that campaigning can only be limited on election day in a small area around the polling station. Any broader ban on speech would be unconstitutional. [52]

Related Research Articles

An opinion poll, often simply referred to as a survey or a poll is a human research survey of public opinion from a particular sample. Opinion polls are usually designed to represent the opinions of a population by conducting a series of questions and then extrapolating generalities in ratio or within confidence intervals. A person who conducts polls is referred to as a pollster.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elections in New Zealand</span> Political elections for public offices in New Zealand

New Zealand is a representative democracy in which members of the unicameral New Zealand Parliament gain their seats through elections. General elections are usually held every three years; they may be held at an earlier date at the discretion of the prime minister, although it usually only happens in the event of a vote of no confidence or other exceptional circumstances. A by-election is held to fill an electorate vacancy arising during a parliamentary term. The most recent general election took place on 17 October 2020.

<i>Canada Elections Act</i>

The Canada Elections Act is an Act of the Parliament of Canada which regulates the election of members of parliament to the House of Commons of Canada. The Act has been amended many times over Canada's history.

Regular elections in Croatia are mandated by the Constitution and legislation enacted by Parliament. The presidency, Parliament, county prefects and assemblies, city and town mayors, and city and municipal councils are all elective offices. Since 1990, seven presidential elections have been held. During the same period, ten parliamentary elections were also held. In addition, there were nine nationwide local elections. Croatia has also held three elections to elect members of the European Parliament following its accession to the EU on 1 July 2013.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Voter suppression</span> Strategy designed to restrict specific groups of people from voting

Voter suppression is a strategy used to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting. It is distinguished from political campaigning in that campaigning attempts to change likely voting behavior by changing the opinions of potential voters through persuasion and organization, activating otherwise inactive voters, or registering new supporters. Voter suppression, instead, attempts to gain an advantage by reducing the turnout of certain voters. Suppression is an anti-democratic tactic associated with authoritarianism. Some argue the term 'voter suppression' downplays the harm done when voices aren't reflected in an election, calling for terms like 'vote destruction' that accounts for the permanence of each vote not being cast.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2006 Canadian federal election</span> 39th Canadian federal election

The 2006 Canadian federal election was held on January 23, 2006, to elect members to the House of Commons of Canada of the 39th Parliament of Canada.

Electoral-Vote.com is a website created by computer scientist Andrew S. Tanenbaum. In the periods leading up to U.S. federal elections, the site's primary content is poll analysis to project election outcomes. Since the 2016 elections, the site also has featured daily commentary on political news stories.

Early voting, also called advance polling or pre-poll voting, is a convenience voting process by which voters in a public election can vote before a scheduled election day. Early voting can take place remotely, such as via postal voting, or in person, usually in designated early voting polling stations. The availability and time periods for early voting vary among jurisdictions and types of election. The goals of early voting are usually to increase voter participation, relieve congestion at polling stations on election day, and avoid possible discrimination against people with work and travel schedules that may effectively prohibit them from getting to the polls during the hours provided in a single election day.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elections in Lithuania</span> Political elections for public offices in Lithuania

Elections in Lithuania are held to select members of the parliament, the president, members of the municipal councils and mayors, as well as delegates to the European Parliament. Lithuanian citizens can also vote in mandatory or consultative referendums.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2006 Mexican general election</span> General election held in Mexico

General elections were held in Mexico on Sunday, 2 July 2006. Voters went to the polls to elect a new President of the Republic to serve a six-year term, replacing then Mexican President Vicente Fox ; 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies to serve for a three-year term in; and 128 members of the Senate to serve six-year terms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">General elections in Singapore</span> Elections to the Parliament of Singapore

General elections in Singapore must be held within three months after five years have elapsed from the date of the first sitting of a particular Parliament of Singapore, as per the Constitution. However, Parliament can also be dissolved and a general election called at the behest of the Prime Minister before the five-year period elapses. The number of constituencies or electoral divisions is not permanently fixed by law, but is declared by the Prime Minister prior to each general election pursuant to the Parliamentary Elections Act, which governs the conduct of elections to Parliament, taking into account recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2010 Ukrainian presidential election</span> Presidential election in Ukraine

Presidential elections were held in Ukraine on 17 January 2010. As no candidate received a majority of the vote, a run-off election was held between Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych on 7 February.

<i>R v Bryan</i> Supreme Court of Canada case

R v Bryan 2007 SCC 12 is a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada on freedom of expression and Canadian federal elections. The Court upheld a law that prevented the publicizing of election results from some ridings before the polls closed in others.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2009 Afghan presidential election</span>

Presidential elections were held in Afghanistan on 20 August 2009. The election resulted in victory for incumbent Hamid Karzai, who won 49.67% of the vote, while his main rival Abdullah Abdullah finished second with 30.59% of the vote.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Election day</span>

Election day or polling day is the day on which general elections are held. In many countries, general elections are always held on a Saturday or Sunday, to enable as many voters as possible to participate; while in other countries elections are always held on a weekday. However, some countries, or regions within a country, which hold elections on a weekday declare election day a public holiday. Countries which permit absentee ballots, early ballots or postal votes to be cast by mail before the election avoid the problem altogether by enabling voters to vote on a day that is more convenient to them.

Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act was designed to prevent the transmission of any election results until polls were closed nationwide. Section 329 stated that:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">June 2015 Turkish general election</span>

General elections were held in Turkey on 7 June 2015 to elect 550 members to the Grand National Assembly. This was the 24th general election in the history of the Turkish Republic, electing the country's 25th Parliament. The result was the first hung parliament since the 1999 general elections. Unsuccessful attempts to form a coalition government resulted in a snap general election being called for November 2015.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Political funding in New Zealand</span>

Political funding in New Zealand deals with political donations, public funding and other forms of funding received by politician or political party in New Zealand to pay for an election campaign. Only quite recently has political funding become an issue of public policy. Now there is direct and indirect funding by public money as well as a skeleton regulation of income, expenditure and transparency.

In the run-up to, during and after the Turkish general election of June 2015, numerous accusations of electoral fraud and violence were made by opposition parties. Electoral fraud in Turkey has usually been most extensive during local elections, where individual votes have significantly larger impact in determining local administrations. Although the 2014 presidential election saw little evidence of electoral misconduct, issues regarding voter records as well as extensive media bias have been controversial issues that have remained largely unaddressed. In both the local and presidential elections in 2014, several voters reported that ballot papers had been sent to addresses that are wrong or do not exist as well as voters that have been dead for a substantial amount of time.

In the run up to the next Israeli legislative election, various organisations carried out opinion polling to gauge voting intention in Israel during the term of the twenty-fifth Knesset. This article lists the results of such polls.


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  51. Decision 6/2007 (II. 27.) AB on 26. February 2007
  52. Burson v. Freeman, 504 U.S. 191 (1992)