Ad­vance vot­ing could change rules

The Southland Times - - POLITICS - DAVE NI­COLL

With more peo­ple cast­ing their elec­tion votes early, ques­tions have been raised about the rules around elec­tion ad­ver­tis­ing.

In 2010, changes were made to the elec­toral law that meant ad­vance vot­ers did not have to make a statu­tory dec­la­ra­tion that they would be un­able to vote on elec­tion day.

In the 2011 gen­eral elec­tion, 14.2 per cent of the to­tal votes in the elec­tion had been cast in ad­vance, and, in the 2014 elec­tion, the fig­ure grew to 28.7 per cent, an Elec­toral Com­mis­sion spokes­woman said.

With con­tin­ued growth in ad­vance vot­ing, the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion had planned for the pos­si­bil­ity that as many as half the vot­ers could cast their vote be­fore elec­tion day.

Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Bryce Ed­wards said there did ap­pear to be a con­tra­dic­tion whereby elec­tion­eer­ing was pro­hib­ited on elec­tion day but vot­ing now had been ef­fec­tively ex­tended out to two weeks yet ad­ver­tis­ing rules did not ap­ply for those two weeks.

The Elec­toral Act pro­hibits cam­paign­ing of any kind on elec­tion day.

‘‘It will have to even­tu­ally be re­solved ei­ther by those rules be­ing ex­tended out for that longer pe­riod of vot­ing or else the rules be­ing ex­tin­guished for elec­tion day, and my guess is that, in the end, the rules will be re­laxed about elec­tion day pro­hi­bi­tions.’’

Be­cause the rules were get­ting harder to po­lice, and there seemed to be more loop­holes and prob­lems, es­pe­cially with so­cial me­dia and ap­ply­ing the rules over­seas, Ed­wards fore­sees the rules be­ing re­laxed, he said.

He did not think elec­tion­eer­ing had a par­tic­u­larly neg­a­tive im­pact on vot­ers and their de­ci­sion­mak­ing.

‘‘Peo­ple are per­fectly ca­pa­ble of nav­i­gat­ing that elec­tion­eer­ing or the ad­ver­tis­ing, and, yes, there’s a prob­lem with ad­vance vot­ing that peo­ple may sub­se­quently change their mind be­cause of that elec­tion­eer­ing, but that’s just the na­ture of ad­vance vot­ing.

‘‘You do take some risk when you vote early that some­thing will change in the elec­tion cam­paign.’’

In Bri­tain, where the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem shared some sim­i­lar­i­ties to New Zealand, peo­ple would still be out can­vass­ing on elec­tion day, and bill­boards and posters were still dis­played, Ed­wards said.

‘‘I don’t think that’s some­thing we should be scared of. Cer­tainly in Bri­tain it’s not a prob­lem, and gen­er­ally that’s how most coun­tries work.’’

At the end of the 2014 elec­tion the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion pointed out the ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tion and sug­gested that Par­lia­ment needs to put some force into deal­ing with it but there seemed to be no ac­tion, Ed­wards said.

‘‘If it gets any­where near 50 per cent ad­vanced vot­ing this time around, I think there’ll be ab­so­lutely no avoid­ing deal­ing with that sit­u­a­tion.’’

An Elec­toral Com­mis­sion spokes­woman said af­ter the elec­tion, the com­mis­sion pro­duces a re­port and presents it to the jus­tice and elec­toral se­lect com­mit­tee.

The com­mit­tee would look at any is­sues the com­mis­sion may bring up, , the spokes­woman said.

It was too early to say what those is­sues may be, she said.

Elec­tion ad­ver­tis­ing rules state there is a cam­paign buf­fer zone around ad­vance vot­ing places.

Cam­paign ac­tiv­ity is pro­hib­ited in­side ad­vance vot­ing places and within 10 me­tres of their en­trance.

Based on the growth of ad­vance vot­ing dur­ing the past two elec­tions, as many as half of the vot­ers may vote be­fore elec­tion day this year.

In 2014, 29.3 per cent of votes were cast in ad­vance com­pared with 14.7 per cent in 2011

In an­tic­i­pa­tion of a pos­si­ble turnout of 50 per cent cast­ing their vote early, the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion has set up about a hun­dred more ad­vance vot­ing places.

Stuff hosted Fi­nance Min­is­ter Steven Joyce and his op­po­site num­ber from Labour, Grant Robert­son, in a fun and feisty de­bate in Welling­ton on Thurs­day night.

As in each of the three lead­ers de­bates so far, we ap­plied our factcheck­ing eye to pro­ceed­ings. Here’s what we found:

Na­tional’s 18 tax in­creases

It didn’t take long for the first dis­agree­ment of the night to sur­face and sur­prise, sur­prise it was over taxes.

Robert­son ac­cused Na­tional of in­tro­duc­ing 18 new taxes since 2008.

Here’s how the ex­change went down:

Robert­son: ‘‘Be­cause you in­creased taxes 18 times, Steven, in the last nine years’’. Joyce: ‘‘That is ab­so­lutely false.’’ Af­ter some more back and forth, Joyce claimed Na­tional had added only one new tax.

‘‘We have put maybe one new tax on. The bright line tax, which you have en­dorsed, in the last nine years,’’ he said.

Of course a tax can in­crease with­out hav­ing to be a new tax, but let’s first zero in on the claim of 18 tax in­creases.

Our de­bate hosts, Stuff po­lit­i­cal edi­tor Tracy Watkins and deputy edi­tor Vernon Small ad­dressed this very ques­tion on Wed­nes­day. They point out that while you can tech­ni­cally ar­gue that, yes, there have been 18 tax in­creases un­der Na­tional, some of the ex­am­ples in­cluded in this ar­gu­ment from Labour are ‘‘very mar­ginal’’.

Th­ese in­clude cost in­creases for fil­ing com­pany re­turns, the ‘‘pa­per boy’’ tax - which was even­tu­ally dropped - and six petrol tax in­creases.

ROBYN EDIE/STUFF

Ad­vance vot­ing for the 2017 gen­eral elec­tion is un­der way and signs are up at the Men­zies Build­ing in In­ver­cargill.

Grant Robert­son

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