Third Party Handbook

This handbook provides information you will need as a third party in the 2017 general election and includes detailed information on:

  • who is a promoter
  • recording and reporting election expenses
  • registering as a promoter
  • the election day rules
  • the election campaigning rules

What’s new at this election?

There will be some changes to advance voting at the election. Campaign activity inside advance voting places and within 10 metres of the entrance to an advance voting place will be prohibited. There will also be a slightly shorter advance voting period, starting 12 days before election day, but longer opening times and an advance voting service will also be available on the Sunday before election day. Case law has confirmed that the broadcasting rules in Part 6 of the Broadcasting Act only apply to broadcasts initiated by political parties and candidates, not broadcasting by third parties. These changes are explained in more detail in the handbook.

Key dates for a third party

23 June Start of the regulated period The three month period before election day where candidate, party and third party election expense limits apply for advertising published during this period
22 July Electoral signs Special rules allow signs up to 3 square metres to go up from this date subject to local authority rules about location
23 August Writ day Candidate and party television and radio broadcasting can begin
Noon 29 August Nomination day All candidates must have submitted their nomination by noon on this date
6 September Overseas voting begins  
11 September Advance voting begins  
22 September Day before election day End of regulated period. You must remove all campaign signage before midnight
23 September Election day Voters can vote between 9am and 7pm. No campaigning is allowed on election day
7 October Official results declared 2pm target for the release of official results
23 January 2018 Third party returns due Third parties that spend more than $100,000 on election advertising published during the regulated period must file a return with the Electoral Commission by this date

This guide is available for download below.

The application form to register as a promoter can be found here.

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Part 1: Third Party Promoters

This section explains who can be a third party promoter of election advertising at a parliamentary election.

Key messages

Anyone other than candidates or registered parties are third parties for the purposes of the election advertising rules.
An unregistered third party promoter can spend up to $12,600 (including GST) on election advertising published during the regulated period (23 June to 22 September).
Promoters who spend, or intend to spend over $12,600 (including GST) on election advertising during the regulated period (23 June to 22 September) are required to register with the Electoral Commission. A registered promoter can spend up to $315,000 (including GST) during the regulated period.

Who can promote election advertisements

A promoter is a person or group who initiates or instigates an election advertisement.

Only the following can promote an election advertisement:

  • a party secretary of a registered party
  • an electorate candidate
  • a registered promoter, or
  • an unregistered promoter.

Unregistered promoters

An individual or group may be an unregistered promoter for the purposes of a parliamentary election provided that they do not incur advertising expenses exceeding $12,600 (including GST) in relation to election advertisements published during the regulated period.

For more information on what is an election advertisement and the regulated period see Part 3.

There is no requirement for an unregistered promoter to disclose how much has been spent on election advertising. However, unregistered promoters are required to keep records of the costs incurred in relation to election advertisements published during the regulated period for verification purposes for three years after election day.

The following cannot be an unregistered promoter:

  • an electorate candidate
  • a list candidate
  • a registered party
  • a person involved in the administration of:
    • the affairs of an electorate candidate in relation to the candidate’s election campaign, or
    • the affairs of a registered party.

Electorate candidate

An electorate candidate includes any person who has made their intention to stand as a candidate at a parliamentary election publicly known i.e. notifying their intention to the press or at a public meeting, or who has been nominated to stand as an electorate candidate and has not withdrawn their nomination.

Electorate candidates are not covered by the rules for third party promoters as there are separate rules for electorate candidates and election advertising in the Electoral Act.

List candidate

A list candidate means any person whose name is specified in a party list submitted to the Electoral Commission in accordance with section 127 of the Electoral Act 1993. As a list candidate is standing on behalf of a party and parties are subject to separate rules, list candidates are not covered by the third party promoter rules.

Party

Party means, for the purposes of the election advertising rules, a political party registered by the Electoral Commission in accordance with Part 4 of the Electoral Act. There are separate rules for registered parties regarding election advertising in the Electora Act.

Unregistered political parties that promote election advertisements will be third party promoters for the purposes of the Electoral Act.

Person involved in the administration of the candidate or party’s affairs

Election advertisements published or distributed by a person involved in the administration of an electorate candidate or registered party’s affairs must act under the authority of the candidate or the party secretary who is the promoter of the advertisement.

Whether a person is involved in the affairs of a party or candidate is a question of fact, to be determined based on the nature of the person’s involvement in a party’s affairs or candidates’s campaign.

Registered promoters

Any individual or group who is a third party promoter who spends, or intends to spend, over $12,600 (including GST) on election advertising during the regulated period (23 June to 22 September) must register with the Electoral Commission.

A registered promoter can spend up to $315,000 (including GST) on election advertising during the regulated period for the general election.

The list of who cannot be a registered promoter is the same as that provided for unregistered promoters with the inclusion of an overseas person.

Overseas person

An overseas person means:

  • an individual who resides outside of New Zealand and is not a New Zealand citizen or registered elector
  • a body corporate incorporated outside of New Zealand, or
  • an unincorporated body that has its head office or principal place of business outside of New Zealand.

Since an overseas person cannot be a registered promoter for the purposes of election advertising, an overseas person may only spend up to $12,600 (including GST) on election advertising during the regulated period.

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Part 2: Registering as a Promoter

This section explains the process of registering as a third party promoter with the Electoral Commission.

Registration process

You must register as a registered promoter with the Electoral Commission if you intend to spend more than $12,600 (including GST) on election advertisements published during the regulated period (23 June to 22 September).

Registration must be:

There is no fee payable to register as a promoter with the Commission.

Registration is easy and usually takes less than 2 working days.

Applying as an individual

If the promoter is an individual the application should be made by the person who wants to be registered as a promoter.

The promoter must provide their contact details including their street address, which will appear in the register. This means the full street address of the place where the promoter usually lives, or the full street address of any other place where the promoter can usually be contacted between the hours of 9am and 5pm on any working day. A Post Office box or website address is insufficient.

Applying on behalf of a group

For a body corporate or unincorporated body the name of the group and the individual who is authorised to apply to register the promoter will appear on the register. The full street address of the group’s principal place of business, or the full street address of the body’s head office must also be provided for inclusion on the register.

If the promoter is a company then the application must be accompanied by evidence documenting that the person is duly authorised by the board of directors to make the application, such as a letter signed by one or more directors.

Where the promoter is neither an individual nor a company the application must state the names of the persons occupying a position in the body that is comparable with that of a director of a company. If the promoter is a trust, you need to provide the names of the trustees.

The names of these persons are included on the public register to enable the public to see who is responsible for the body that is promoting the advertising.

Registration by the Electoral Commission

The Commission will not register a promoter whose name is indecent or offensive, likely to cause confusion or likely to mislead electors.

The applicant will be notified in writing, as soon as is reasonably practicable, either of the date of registration or of the reasons for refusal.

Register of promoters

Promoters registered with the Commission are arranged in order of the date on which their application was processed by the Commission. The Register is available for inspection at the Commission’s offices and at www.elections.org.nz

Any change in a registered promoter’s details as shown on the Register must be notified to the Commission in writing within 10 working days of the change.

Cancellation of registration

A promoter can cancel their registration if the promoter has not incurred more than $12,600 (including GST) on election expenses in relation to election advertisements during the regulated period. Any request should be made to the Commission in writing.

The Commission will cancel the registration of a promoter who is not eligible to be registered, or if the promoter requests the cancellation, and the promoter has not spent more than $12,600 on election advertising expenses during the regulated period. The Commission will give the promoter written confirmation of the cancellation.

A registered promoter’s registration for an election will automatically expire at the close of election day following the promoter’s registration.

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Part 3: Campaign rules

This section helps you understand the rules in the Electoral Act 1993 that apply to third parties when campaigning at a parliamentary election.

Key messages

Election advertisements must contain a promoter statement.
Election advertisements can be published at any time except on election day (23 September).
Third parties cannot promote a candidate or party at any time without their written authorisation.
Campaigning on election day is a criminal offence.

Promoter statement

All election advertisements, irrespective of when they are published, must include the name and address of the person that has initiated or instigated them (‘the promoter’). [See section 204F of the Electoral Act]

Failing to include a promoter statement is an offence and subject to a fine of up to $10,000 for unregistered promoters and $40,000 for registered promoters.

The form of words recommended by the Commission is:
Promoted or Authorised by [promoter’s name], [promoter’s relevant full street address].

If the promoter is unregistered, and is an incorporated or unincorporated body, the promoter statement must also include the name of a member of the body who is the duly authorised representative of the promoter.

For example:

Promoted or Authorised by [duly authorised representative’s full name], [promoter’s name], [promoter’s relevant full street address].

For an incorporated or unincorporated body it can be the full street address of the body’s principal place of business or head office.

For registered promoters this should be the same address as shown on the Register of Registered Promoters. A Post Office box or website address is insufficient.

For an individual, the address can be the full street address of either the place where the promoter usually lives or any other place where the promoter can usually be contacted between the hours of 9am and 5pm on any working day.

This could be, for example:

  • the individual’s campaign office address, or
  • work address, provided that this is where he or she can usually be contacted between the hours of 9am and 5pm on any working day. An individual may need to consult their employer before including a work address on any election advertising.

The requirement for a promoter statement applies to all forms of election advertising in any medium.

If the election advertisement is published in a visual form, the promoter statement must be clearly displayed in the advertisement. If the election advertisement is published only in an audible form, the promoter statement must be no less audible than the other content of the advertisement.

Whether a promoter statement has been clearly displayed will need to be determined on a case by case basis taking into account the type of advertisement that is published. In the Commission’s view, this does not require that a person be able to read the promoter statement from where an election advertisement is intended to be viewed, for example on a billboard while driving. However, if a person inspects an election advertisement he or she should be able to read the promoter statement.

Where the website or webpage is an election advertisement, a promoter statement does not need to be included in each picture, article or entry on the site, provided the promoter statement is contained on the home page or the page that contains the election advertising.

Written authorisation to promote a candidate or party

Election advertisements promoting a candidate or party published by third parties must have the prior written authorisation of the candidate or party.

The costs of any third party advertisements published during the regulated period that promote a candidate or party will count towards your third party election expenses and may need to be disclosed in your return of third party election expenses (see Part 4) as well as counting towards the candidate or party’s advertising expenses.

Example: Billboard
If a third party wants to spend $20,000 publishing these election advertisements during the regulated period for the election that encourage voters to vote for Party A, prior to publication;

  • the third party must register as a promoter with the Electoral Commission, and
  • must obtain the written authorisation of the party secretary of Party A.

If Party A agrees, and the item is published, it must include a promoter statement including the name and address of the third party.

The $20,000 cost of the election advertising will count toward both Party A and the third party’s election expense limits.

Example: Billboard
If a third party wants to spend $35,000 publishing these election advertisements during the regulated period that encourage voters not to vote for Party B, prior to publication, the third party must register as a promoter with the Electoral Commission.

The prior written authorisation is not required from any party to publish this ad.

The advertisement must include a promoter statement including the name and address of the third party.

The $35,000 cost of the election advertising will count towards just the third party’s election expense limits.

What is an election advertisement?

An election advertisement is an advertisement in any medium that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to:

  • vote, or not to vote, for a constituency candidate (whether or not the name of the candidate is stated)
  • vote, or not to vote, for a party (whether or not the name of the party is stated)
  • vote, or not to vote, for a type of candidate or party described by reference to views or positions that are, or are not, held or taken (whether or not the name of the candidate or party are stated).

[See section 3A of the Electoral Act]

The Electoral Act does not define ‘advertisement’ but, because the definition of ‘election advertisement’ covers an advertisement ‘in any medium’, the Commission considers that the term ‘advertisement’ should be interpreted broadly. For example, it is not limited to traditional forms of advertising such as newspapers, posters, billboards, leaflets and radio and television broadcasting. It includes online advertising and can be paid or unpaid. The test is whether the advertisement can ‘reasonably’ be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote, or not to vote, for a party or candidate, or type of party or candidate.

This is an objective test to be determined considering the effect of the advertisement as a whole. The effect of the advertisement will depend not only on its content, but also its style and apparent purpose, and factual context. To be an election advertisement the advertisement need not include the name of a party or candidate, and the encouragement or persuasion to vote, or not to vote, can be direct or indirect.

Other relevant factors that need to be considered can relate to who the promoter is and whether or not there is a public interest in knowing the promoter’s identity which will depend on whether or not the promoter is expressing views that are personal in nature and not incurring significant expense or represents a group or vested interest.

The courts have said that the assessment is to be made from the perspective of a reasonable observer, sensitive to the exceptionally high value of political speech in a democracy. (The Electoral Commission v Watson & Anor 2016)

Election advertisements that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote, or not to vote, for a constituency candidate (whether or not the name of the candidate is stated) are called candidate advertisements. Election advertisements that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote, or not to vote, for a party (whether or not the name of the party is stated) are called party advertisements.

All requirements in respect of election advertisements apply to:

  • election advertisements published in New Zealand even if the promoter is outside of New Zealand, and
  • election advertisements published outside of New Zealand where the promoter is in New Zealand.

Publish means to bring to the notice of a person in any manner, excluding addressing one or more persons face to face.

Example: Newspaper Ad
This type of ad would be an election advertisement because it may reasonably be regarded as encouraging voters to vote for Party A.

If a third party wants to spend $15,000 publishing this advertisement during the regulated period, prior to publication,

  • the third party must register as a promoter with the Electoral Commission, and
  • must obtain the written authorisation of the party secretary of Party A

If Party A agrees, and the item is published, it must include a promoter statement including the name and address of the third party.

The $15,000 cost of the election advertising will count toward both Party A and the third party’s election expense limits.

Election advertisement exemptions

The legislation makes it clear that the following are not election advertisements:

  • editorial content
  • personal political views online
  • a member of Parliament’s contact details.

Editorial content

There is an exemption for the editorial content of a periodical, a radio or television programme, or news media internet site. The Electoral Act does not define ‘editorial content’ but the Commission’s view is that it includes any part of the publication except advertising or advertorial. It can include opinion and editorial pieces written by others and reader contributions that the editor has chosen to publish. A periodical is a newspaper, magazine, or journal established for purposes unrelated to the election, that has been published at regular intervals and is available to the public.

Personal political views online

There is an exemption for the publication of personal political views by an individual on the Internet or other electronic medium, provided the individual does not make or receive payment for publishing those views. Individuals expressing personal political views on social media such as Facebook and Twitter are covered by this exemption and will not need to include a promoter statement. This exemption covers political views that are personal in nature. It does not extend to political views expressed on behalf of a group, organisation or views of a political party.

Where an election advertisement posted on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media site is ‘liked’, ‘shared’, ‘retweeted’ or ‘reblogged’ by another person, it is the Commission’s view that the individual content appearing elsewhere online will not require a promoter statement if it appears on those other pages as the expression of personal political views by an individual who does not make or receive payment in respect of the publication of those views.

MP contact details

There is also an exemption for the publication of contact information by MPs.

Further information for MPs is available in the Commission’s publication MP Handbook – General Election 2017.

Requesting an advisory opinion from the Electoral Commission

We are very happy to provide a view where you are uncertain about how the rules apply to particular advertising.

You can ask us for advice on whether, in the Commission’s opinion, an advertisement constitutes an ‘election advertisement’ under the law. The advisory opinion will be provided as soon as is reasonably practicable. The opinion of the Commission is not legally binding but reflects the Commission’s interpretation of the law. A court of law may reach a different view and you may still wish to seek your own legal advice.

To request an advisory opinion please provide a copy of the advertisement and all relevant background information about the context of publication such as the details of when and how it is to be published and on what scale.

Requests can be made by email to advisory@elections.govt.nz. We will respond as soon as we can. We have a maximum target turnaround of 5 working days.

The Commission will treat the proposed advertisement, any supporting material, and the advice given to the requestor as confidential until the day after the day for the return of the writ for the election (13 October 2017).

Advisory opinions will then be available on request, subject to the Official Information Act 1982. This does not prohibit the requestor from releasing the advice at any time.

An advertisement ‘relating to an election’

Even if an advertisement does not come within the definition of an ‘election advertisement’, it must still contain a promoter statement if it is ‘advertising relating to an election’ that is published in any newspaper, periodical, poster or flyer or broadcast on radio or television. [Section 221A of the Electoral Act]

For example, a poster promoted by a third party that encourages the public to vote or not to vote at the election or encourages voters to think about a particular issue when they vote may not fulfil the definition of an election advertisement because there is no direct or indirect reference to a candidate or party or type of candidate or party. However, the advertisement will still need to have a promoter statement on it to comply with section 221A because it is ‘election-related’.

The cost of these types of election-related advertisements are not counted as part of a third party’s election expenses.

Radio or television advertising

Recent case law has confirmed that third parties may broadcast election advertisements at any time, except for election day, provided they meet the promoter statement, authorisation, expenditure and registration requirements for election advertisements broadcast on radio and television, or the promoter statement requirements for election-related advertising under section 221A of the Electoral Act.

Example: Radio Ad
If a third party wants to spend $10,000 broadcasting radio advertisements to encourage people to vote, this is not an election advertisement or election programme.

There would be no requirement to register as a promoter.

The $10,000 would not be an election expense.

It is however, election related and section 221A of the Act requires that a promoter statement still be included so that voters know who has promoted it.

Canvassing and surveys

The rules relating to the requirement for a promoter statement and election expenses apply to election advertisements that are ‘published’. However, the definition of publish expressly excludes addressing one or more persons face to face. This means that face to face canvassing activities are exempt from the requirement for a promoter statement and do not need to be considered in terms of election expenses.

Whether telephone canvassing or surveys are election advertisements depends on their content. The Electoral Act includes an express exemption for surveys and opinion polls from the definition of election expenses but this does not mean everything published in a survey format will automatically be exempt. If a survey goes beyond merely eliciting voter’s views and can reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote or not vote for a constituency candidate or political party (often referred to as push polling) then it will be an election advertisement.

If survey questions promote a party or candidate’s policies, for example by asking questions in a leading way and directing the answers, then the survey is likely to be an election advertisement and needs to comply with the election advertising rules.

We are happy to review a proposed script or survey and provide a view on whether or not it is an election advertisement.

Websites and social media

Where a website, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or other social media, is used by a third party to express third party political views on behalf of a group, the exemption for personal political views does not apply.

To determine whether a website or social media page is an election advertisement, the Commission looks at the content of the site or page as a whole. A third party website may be made up of several pages containing, for example, information about the third party and its objectives, how to join or donate to the third party and other information.

If a third party website has content that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote, or not vote, for a party or a candidate, the whole website will be an election advertisement.

The same approach is taken when considering social media. For example, whether or not a third party’s Facebook page is an election advertisement, the Commission looks at the Facebook page as a whole, including the content the third party is responsible for publishing such as the third party’s posts and profile photos. Generally, where individuals post comments on a third party’s Facebook page the personal political views exemption is likely to apply to those posts.

Where the website or webpage is an election advertisement, a promoter statement does not need to be included in each picture, article or post on the site, provided the promoter statement is contained on the home page or the page that contains the election advertising.

On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube we recommend you include the promoter statement in the ‘About’ or profile section for your account or channel.

Where you pay for an election advertisement to appear unsolicited on another person’s web page, for example, a promoted post or banner advertisement on Facebook or Twitter, a promoter statement must be included on the advertisement itself. You cannot rely on a link back to another page which contains a promoter statement.

If there are a limited number of pixels to include a promoter statement on the advertisement it is acceptable to abbreviate the promoter statement, for example ‘Promoted by Anthony Secretary, 111 Any Street, Auckland’ could be abbreviated to ‘A Secretary, 111 Any St, AKLD’.

References to websites

If advertising contains a website reference, depending on how the website is being used in the advertisement, the content of the website may be considered in determining whether the advertisement is an election advertisement for the purposes of the Act.

For example, if the statement: ‘Go to www.standupforanimals.com to find out more’ is included in a print advertisement, both the content of the print advertisement and the website content would be taken into account.

Listing a website is fine, but if you use words or graphics that encourage readers to visit a website, the content of both the publicity and the website will need to be considered.

Electoral signs

Local authorities are responsible for regulating when, where, and how election signs can be displayed. You should consult with local authorities about their rules before putting up any election signs.

As the rules may vary between each local authority, the Electoral Act allows election signs up to 3 square metres in size to be put up from Saturday 22 July for the general election.

This provision overrides any more restrictive local authority rules about the size of signs and when they can go up, but it does not mean signs can go up anywhere from this date. Local authority rules about the location and density of signs and any application procedures to put up electoral signs will still apply. Some local authorities may allow larger signs to be put up and for signs to be put up before 22 July.

Any queries or complaints about signs being up should be directed to the relevant local authority.

You must not pay an elector to display an electoral sign unless it is in the course of the elector’s business.

It is an offence under the Electoral Act to display election signs on election day.

Treating

Treating is the provision of food, drink, and entertainment to persons with the intention of corruptly influencing their vote and is a criminal offence. [See section 217 of the Electoral Act for a full description]

The consequences of a conviction for treating are significant, including imprisonment, loss of a parliamentary seat or disqualification as a voter for three years.

The Electoral Act states that the provision of a light supper after an election meeting does not constitute the offence of treating. The provision of a cup of tea or coffee and a light snack after a campaign meeting, therefore, is not treating.

You should be cautious about providing refreshments in connection with election-related activities that do not clearly fall within the above exception to avoid complaints being made during the election campaign that you have breached the treating provisions.

Campaigning near advance voting places

The restrictions that prevent electioneering on election day do not apply during the advance voting period. However, there are restrictions on campaigning inside or within 10 metres of an entrance to an advance voting place (“the buffer zone”).

The full list of prohibited activities is set out in section 197A of the Electoral Act which effectively prohibits anything that can be said to interfere with or influence voters, including processions, speeches or public statements in a buffer zone.

Signs, clothing and other campaign material featuring party or candidate names, emblems, slogans or logos cannot be displayed or handed out inside the advance voting place or anywhere within the buffer zone. However, scrutineers and party supporters may still wear a party lapel badge.

The rules about filming and photography in an advance voting place are the same as those on election day, see Part 5.

Complaints about election advertising

The rules in the Electoral Act and the Broadcasting Act impose procedural or timing requirements on publishers and broadcasters. The restriction on candidates and parties broadcasting election programmes outside the election period, and the requirement for all election advertising to contain a promoter statement are examples.

The legislation does not prescribe the substantive content of election advertisements, and election programmes, but publishers and broadcasters must comply with the relevant broadcasting standards or codes of practice.

Electoral Commission

The Electoral Commission is responsible for considering complaints about the breaches of election advertising rules and the election day rules under the Electoral Act 1993 and election programmes under Part 6 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The Commission has no prosecution or enforcement role. If the Commission believes an offence has been committed it must report the facts to the New Zealand Police. For a limited number of Electoral Act offences the Commission does not have to report an offence if the offence is so inconsequential that there is no public interest in reporting those facts to the Police.

Complaints can be made in writing to enquiries@elections.govt.nz or by post to the Electoral Commission at PO Box 3220, Wellington.

Broadcasting Standards Authority

Election programmes on television and radio (which include party and candidate advertisements) come within the jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA).

Election programmes must comply with the Election Programme Code which is available on the BSA website.

Third party programmes about election matters must comply with the relevant broadcasting standards for radio, Free-to-Air TV or Pay TV.

Complaints about an election programme under the Election Programme Code must be made directly to the BSA:
Broadcasting Standards Authority
PO Box 9213, Wellington 6141
Level 2, 119 Ghuznee Street
Wellington 6011
Tel: 04 382 9508
Fax: 04 382 9543
Email: info@bsa.govt.nz
Website: www.bsa.govt.nz

Complaints about election-related broadcasting by broadcasters and third parties under the broadcasting standards must be made to the broadcaster in the first instance. If a complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of their complaint to the broadcaster, they are entitled to refer their complaint to the BSA for review.

For advice on the codes or the complaints process contact the BSA (telephone 0800 366 996 or email info@bsa.govt.nz).

Advertising Standards Authority

The content of election advertising in all media other than election programmes on television and radio comes within the jurisdiction of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Advertising must comply with the ASA Codes of Practice.

The codes are available on the ASA website. See also the Advocacy Advertising Principles Guidance.

Complaints can be made directly to:
Advertising Standards Authority
PO Box 10 675, Wellington 6143
Ground Floor, 79 Boulcott Street, Wellington
Tel: 04 472 7852 or
0800 ADHELP (0800 234357)
Email: asa@asa.co.nz
Website: www.asa.co.nz

Press Council

The New Zealand Press Council is responsible for considering any complaints about the editorial content of a newspaper, magazine or periodical in circulation in New Zealand (including their websites) or digital sites, with news content, that have been accepted as a member of the Council.

Generally a person bringing a complaint against a publication must, unless exempted by the Executive Director of the Council, first lodge the complaint in writing with the editor of the publication.

If the complainant is not satisfied by the editor’s response or receives no response from the editor within a period of 10 working days from the date on which the editor received the complaint, the complainant may then complain to the Press Council (online at www.presscouncil.org.nz or PO Box 10 879, The Terrace, Wellington, 6143).

Complaints must be made in writing preferably using the online form. Further information about the complaints procedure, time limits for bringing complaints, and a list of members of the Press Council are available at www.presscouncil.org.nz.

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Part 4: Election Expenses

This section explains how much unregistered promoters and registered promoters can spend on their advertising campaigns, what counts as an election expense, and when a third party needs to report on expenses after an election.

Key messages

Third parties can start campaigning for the general election at any time.
Spending limits only apply to advertising published in the regulated period (23 June to 22 September).
Unregistered promoters can spend up to $12,600 during the regulated period. Any more than that, and the promoter must be registered.
A registered promoter can spend up to $315,000 during the regulated period.
Only registered parties who spend more than $100,000 on election expenses during the regulated period need to file a return within 70 days of election day (by 23 January 2018).

Expenditure limits

An unregistered promoter’s advertising expenses must not exceed $12,600 (including GST) in relation to election advertisements published during the regulated period.

The Electoral Act requires individuals or organisations that spend, or intend to spend, more than $12,600 (including GST) on election advertising during the regulated period to register as a registered promoter with the Electoral Commission (see Part 2 for details of registration).

A registered promoter’s election expenses during the regulated period for an election must not exceed $315,000 (including GST). It is an offence to spend more than this.

Election expenses

Not all campaign expenses are counted as election expenses. Election expenses are the costs associated with election advertisements.

Election expenses, in relation to a registered promoter, include any advertising expenses incurred in relation to:

  • election advertisements in any medium
  • that are published, or continue to be published, during the regulated period, and
  • are promoted by the registered promoter. [See section 206S Electoral Act]

Advertising expenses, in relation to registered and unregistered promoters, include:

  • the cost incurred in the preparation, design, composition, printing, postage and publication of the advertisement, and
  • the reasonable market value of any materials used for the advertisement, including materials provided to the third party for free or below reasonable market value. [See section 3E Electoral Act]

Costs of food, hall hire, surveys or opinion polls, free labour, or replacing materials destroyed through no fault of the third party are not advertising expenses. The cost of any framework that supports a sign (other than a commercial framework) is not an advertising expense.

Surveys and opinion polls

The exclusion for surveys or opinion polls is not unlimited. If a survey goes beyond merely eliciting voters’ views and can reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote, or not to vote, for a candidate or party then it will not be a survey or public opinion poll for the purposes of the Act. It will be an election advertisement and the costs associated with the survey are election expenses.

If the survey is an election advertisement undertaken by phone canvassers who provide their labour free of charge, the costs are exempt. Any other costs incurred (for example, line rental and costs of any calls) would be an expense. The costs of paying any canvassing company to undertake the canvassing would be an election expense.

Vehicle signage

The costs of election signage on campaign cars and other forms of mobile advertising are election expenses. However, advertising expenses do not include the running costs of any vehicle used to display an election advertisement if the use of the vehicle for that purpose is not the subject of a contract, arrangement or understanding for payment.

Websites

Election expenses in relation to election advertisements published on a website include the costs that you incur preparing, designing and publishing the advertisement including hosting fees. They do not include the costs of setting up and maintaining the hardware and software infrastructure of the website.

Items distributed for public display

If a third party distributes items such as t-shirts, bumper stickers and flags before the start of the regulated period, you should assume that they will continue to be displayed during the regulated period and include the cost of these items as an election expense. [See section 205 of the Electoral Act]

Care should be exercised with such items because you could be exposing your supporters to the risk of prosecution if they display the items on election day.

Items reused between elections

Expenses cannot be apportioned between elections. If materials such as banners are purchased and then re-used in subsequent elections, at each subsequent election you must account for the reasonable market value of the materials as an election expense.

We suggest that third parties either use the price that was originally paid for the item, or if this is not known, what the item would cost to purchase now based on two quotes.

Staff time

The cost of labour provided to you free of charge is not an election expense. The cost of paid campaign staff, for example a campaign manager, is also not an election expense unless the staff member is directly involved in the preparation, design, composition, printing, postage or publication of election advertising. An example where paying staff might be an expense is where the staff member is directly involved in preparing copy or artwork.

Election expenses paid before or after the regulated period

Expenses paid for or incurred either before the regulated period (23 June to 22 September) or after election day (23 September) must be included in the return to the extent to which they relate to election advertisements published during the regulated period.

Apportioning election expenses

Where a registered promoter’s advertisement is published before and during the regulated period, the registered promoter is responsible for apportioning the advertising expenses so that only a fair proportion of the expense is attributed to the regulated period.

Apportionment is a factual exercise determined by the circumstances of each case. We are happy to discuss any apportionment questions.

Election expenses authorised by a candidate or party

Expenses cannot be apportioned between a candidate or party and a third party promoter. If you are authorised to publish advertising encouraging people to vote for a candidate or party, the entire cost of the advertising will form part of your election expenses.

The same costs will also be an election expense of the candidate or party. You will need to provide information to the candidate or party secretary about costs incurred.

Paying expenses

Invoices for election expenses must be sent to a third party within 20 working days of the official result being declared (by 6 November).

The third party must pay any bill within 40 working days of the declaration (4 December). It is an offence not to do this. Sections 206Z and 206ZA of the Electoral Act set out a procedure to follow if a bill is disputed.

Third party donations

A third party does not have to account for donations of money, goods or services that are given for use in the third party’s campaign.

Keeping records of expenses

Registered and unregistered promoters must take all reasonable steps to keep records of all of their election expenses. Registered promoters must keep invoices and receipts for all election expenses of $50 or more for three years after election day.

Return of election expenses

All registered promoters who spend $100,000 or more on election advertisements published during the regulated period are required to file a return of election expenses with the Commission.

The return must be:

  • made on the third party expense form supplied by the Commission, and
  • filed within 70 working days of election day (Tuesday, 23 January 2018).

The return form is available from the Commission.

The form requires the registered promoter to provide details of all election expenses incurred, including expenses incurred by any person authorised by the registered promoter.

The Commission may require a registered promoter to obtain an auditor’s report if the Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that a return may contain any false or misleading information.

Registered promoters who fail to meet these requirements are committing offences and may be referred to the New Zealand Police.

The returns are open to public inspection and will be published on www.elections.org.nz.

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Part 5: Election Day

This section outlines the special rules that apply on election day before voting closes.

No campaigning on election day

Any activities (including advertising) promoting the election of a candidate or party, or attacking a party or candidate, are prohibited on election day (23 September) and are a criminal offence. The full list of prohibited activities is set out in section 197 of the Electoral Act, which effectively prohibits anything that can be said to interfere with or influence voters, including processions, speeches or public statements.

You should be particularly careful to avoid any grounds for complaints against your organisation.

Before election day you must remove or cover all your election advertising that can be seen from a public place. Returning Officers are authorised to remove or cover advertising and charge the costs to the persons responsible.

Signs on vehicles, including bumper stickers, must be covered or removed. T-shirts and flags featuring party or candidate names, emblems, slogans or logos cannot be displayed on election day. For this reason, the distribution of bumper stickers, t-shirts or flags is not recommended. Once distributed, you cannot be sure that they will not continue to be displayed on election day. You could expose your supporters to the risk of inadvertently committing an offence.

Delivery of election material

You must not deliver election material through the post or directly to mailboxes on election day. To avoid breaches, New Zealand Post will not accept election material for delivery after Thursday 14 September, (9 days before election day).

To reduce the risk of postal delivery on election day, third parties should also ensure that any mail is clearly identifiable as being election-related.

If you hand-deliver election material directly to mailboxes on the Friday before election day, you can expect complaints by voters who think the material arrived on election day.

All complaints will be reviewed by the Commission and, where appropriate, referred to the New Zealand Police.

Contacting voters

You may wish to offer voters assistance to get to the voting place. You are entitled to contact voters on election day for that purpose, but you are not allowed to say or do anything to influence voters’ choice.

If you or your supporters are contacting voters door-todoor or by phone the Commission recommends that you use a script and advise your supporters to adhere to it to ensure that they do not make any statements that breach the law.

The script should not include reference to a candidate or party name to ensure that there can be no suggestion that the canvasser is attempting to raise the profile of a candidate or party on election day. A phone canvasser can introduce themselves as ringing on behalf of the promoter.

We are happy to provide you with a view on whether any script complies with the rules for election day.

Websites

Election material does not have to be removed from a website on election day, so long as the material on the site is only made available to people who voluntarily access it. New material must not be posted on the website on election day. Advertisements promoting the website must not be published on election day.

There is no express exemption for personal political views online by an individual on election day.

You will need to ensure that public message boards and comment areas on your website cannot be added to on election day to ensure new election-related material is not posted on the website before 7pm. The measures you may need to put in place to ensure the rules are not breached will depend on the level of interactivity that is provided to others on the webpage or website.

The same rules apply to the use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. If you use social media, do not post messages on election day that could breach these rules. The Commission recommends third parties temporarily deactivate their Facebook election campaign page to avoid the risk of supporters committing an offence by sharing content or posting on your page.

For other forms of social media where people can post comments, the Commission recommends you change the settings, where possible, so that people cannot post messages on election day before 7pm that could breach the rules.

Posts on social media that are not connected in any way with the election can of course be posted on election day.

Streamers, rosettes, ribbons etc

Streamers, rosettes (other than those designed to be worn on the lapel), ribbons and similar items in party colours may be displayed on election day but only on people or vehicles and must not contain candidate or party names, emblems, slogans or logos.

Clothing promoting a candidate or party

Clothing (such as t-shirts) promoting a candidate or party must not be displayed on election day.

Imitation ballot papers

You must not print or distribute, on election day or after midnight on the Tuesday before election day (Tuesday 19 September) anything which imitates a ballot paper (or part of a ballot paper) to be used at the election and which contains any direction or matter likely to influence a voter. Do not print or distribute on election day any card or paper showing the candidates, even if it is not an imitation of a ballot paper.

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Part 6: General election results

This section explains when and how votes are counted and results are released, as well as the processes for a recount or election petition.

Preliminary results – election night

After the voting places close at 7pm on election day and all voters have left, the manager of every voting place will carry out the preliminary count of votes in the presence of scrutineers and voting place officials.

The ballot boxes are opened and the party votes and electorate votes are counted. The result is phoned in to the Returning Officer and it is then input into the Electoral Commission’s National Election Results System. Results are displayed in real time on www.electionresults.govt.nz and at the same time are fed to television and radio media. Our target is to have 50% of voting place results available by 10pm on election night and 100% of voting place results available by 11.30pm.

Special votes cast in voting places are not opened and must wait for the official count.

Advance votes

Advance voting starts on Monday 11 September. Advance votes (other than advance special votes) may be counted from 9am onwards on election day at the Returning Officer’s headquarters if the Returning Officer can provide appropriate security.

Our target is to have advance vote results available by 8.30pm.

Official results

The official results are compiled in the Returning Officer’s headquarters by following a meticulous process which starts the day after election day. Electoral rolls are scanned and scrutinised to compile a list of all people who have voted (the master roll) and identify voters who have voted more than once. All votes counted on election night are recounted and checked to ensure accuracy.

The Returning Officer checks the validity of all special vote declaration forms and the names of special voters against the electoral rolls and the list of late enrolments for the district. If the special voter is eligible to make a special vote and the voter’s name is found on the roll the vote will be counted. The party votes of enrolled voters who voted on voting papers for the wrong electorate are also included in the count.

If a name cannot be found, the declaration form is forwarded to the Registrar of Electors to check the voting qualification of the special voter. If the Registrar can confirm that the voter is enrolled in the electorate, the vote will be counted.

The official results process starts on Sunday after election day (24 September) but cannot be completed until after the last legal day for receiving special votes from other electorates and Returning Officers overseas, which is 10 days after election day (Tuesday 3 October).

We expect to publish the official results for the general election 14 days after election day (7 October) by notice in the Gazette.

The results will also be available at www.electionresults.govt.nz.

Election of candidates

After the official results have been published (and any electorate recounts have been declared) the writ is returned to the Clerk of the House with the names of the successful electorate candidates endorsed on the back. The writ is the written notice from the Governor-General instructing the Commission to arrange for the conduct of a parliamentary election.

The Commission then determines which list candidates are elected using a statutory formula. The Commission publishes a notice in the Gazette to declare the election of list candidates.

The Commission expects to make this declaration on Thursday 12 October, subject to any recount applications.

Judicial recounts

After the declaration of the official results, electorate candidates can apply to a District Court Judge for a recount of the electorate vote.

For more information see the Candidate Handbook – General Election 2017.

Only party secretaries may apply for a recount of the party vote.

For more information see the Party Secretary Handbook – General Election 2017.

Election petitions

The only way to challenge the election of an electorate candidate is by election petition. A petition may be brought by an elector or a candidate and is heard by three High Court Judges. It must be brought within 28 days of the Commission declaring the official results (by Monday 6 November).

Only the party secretary of a party contesting the party vote can challenge the election of list candidates. To do this, they bring a petition to the Court of Appeal.

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Appendix A: Summary of election advertising rules for third parties

Election advertising (including broadcast advertising)
When allowed
Period for which counted as election expense
Must be authorised by1
Third Party election expense?
Party/Candidate election expense?
Promoting party Any time except
election day
Regulated period
(23 June to 22 September)
Party secretary Yes Party election expense
Attacking party Any time except
election day
Regulated period
(23 June to 22 September)
Not applicable Yes No
Promoting candidate Any time except election day Regulated period
(23 June to 22 September)
Electorate candidate Yes Candidate expense
Attacking candidate Any time except
election day
Regulated period
(23 June to 22 September)
Not applicable Yes No
Promoting both candidate and party Any time except
election day
Regulated period
(23 June to 22 September)
Both the party
secretary and
candidate
Yes Candidate and party expense (total cost apportioned between the party and candidate)

1 Information about the authorisation and promoter statement requirements is provided in Part 3 of this handbook.

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Appendix B: Useful contacts

For information on... Agency Contact

Administration of enrolment and voting services.

We produce a range of resources, in different languages, about enrolling and voting which can be ordered via our website or by email

Purchase of printed rolls

Nominations, parliamentary elections, by-elections and list vacancies

Advice about election rules including advisory opinions on whether material is an election advertisement

Parliamentary electoral boundaries

Electoral Commission Helpline: 0800 36 76 56
National office: 04 495 0030
General enquiries:
enquiries@elections.govt.nz
Requests for resources:
publications@elections.govt.nz
Requests for roll data:
data@elections.govt.nz
Requests for advisory opinions:
advisory@elections.govt.nz
Electoral Commission websites:
www.elections.org.nz
www.electionresults.govt.nz
Accessing legislation including the Electoral Act 1993 Parliamentary Counsel Office www.legislation.govt.nz
How to contact local councils regarding, for example, signage rules Local Government New Zealand

A list of all councils, maps and websites are available at:

http://www.lgnz.co.nz/nzs-local-government/new-zealands-councils/

Having your say on the law relating to parliamentary elections through the Inquiry into each election conducted by the select committee Justice and Electoral Select Committee

Justice.Electoral@parliament.govt.nz

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/sc/scl/justice-and-electoral/

Information and complaints regarding advertising Advertising Standards Authority Ph 04 472 7852
Email: asa@asa.co.nz
www.asa.co.nz
Information and complaints regarding broadcasting Broadcasting Standards Authority Ph 0800 366 996
Email: info@bsa.govt.nz
www.bsa.govt.nz
Information and complaints regarding press Press Council www.presscouncil.org.nz
Language translation services   www.nztcinternational.com
www.dia.govt.nz
Providing information in accessible formats for blind electors Blind Foundation Ph 0800 24 33 33
www.blindfoundation.org.nz
Deaf advocacy and sign language services   www.deafradio.co.nz
www.slianz.org.nz
www.deaf.org.nz
www.nfd.org.nz

 

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