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