THE Boundaries and Elections Commission has censured broadcasters for releasing exit poll results after the main polls had closed but while balloting was still in progress for the 10 legislators elected by District Board members. This is a bureaucratic over-reaction to an offence so minor it should not be an offence at all. Let it be said that the commission does an important job in ensuring Hong Kong's elections are clean and fair. However, the ban on the publication of exit poll results before voting has finished has less to do with clean elections than with nannying a population the commission chairman, Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing, seems not to trust to think for itself. His argument is that exit polls could exercise 'undue influence' on the choices of late voters. Assuming the commission does not object to tactical voting - which is as much a citizen's right as voting with the herd - the fear is that exit polls may be misleading. The public would be voting on the basis of erroneous information. Perhaps. But where is the evidence that the public is 'unduly' swayed by exit polls? The commission certainly has not produced any. Hong Kong is a small place. In the United States or Australia voting takes place across several time-zones with results broadcast live across the nation. Yet it is not assumed that exit polls on the east coast will distort voter intentions on the west coast to the extent that it will invalidate results. Voters choose their candidates according to many criteria. Exit polls will be a very minor factor. That is particularly so of District Board members, who were the only people still voting when the exit poll results were released. Does Mr Justice Woo seriously believe that the members who voted for pro-China Legco candidates decided to do so at the last moment because the Democrats were doing better than expected? Such decisions are usually made weeks in advance. Exit polls should not be treated as if they were sensitive sub-judice evidence which might influence a jury. They are a legitimate source of news for voters who wish to make an informed choice. At most, they should be issued with a health warning to remind the public that they may not be 100 per cent accurate. Instead of censuring broadcasters for putting these results out early, the commission should be concentrating on why the election vote count was so chaotic and so late. That would be of far greater benefit to voters.