Election Day Rules for Candidates, Parties and Third Parties

This guidance has been produced to help candidates, parties and third parties comply with the law by setting out the general rules for behaviour on election day and during the advance voting period.

Any activities (including advertising) promoting the election of a candidate or party, or attacking a party or candidate, are prohibited on election day before 7pm (Saturday 20 September 2014) 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.

Summary of the rules for candidates, parties and third parties

On election day you must not:
  • Display any hoardings - all election signs must be taken down or covered up before election day.
  • Display any other election advertising - cover up or place away from public view vehicles advertising parties or candidates (this includes flags and bumper stickers).
  • Distribute any campaign material.
  • Distribute or display anything showing political party or candidate names.
  • Post election-related material online. This includes election-related posts on social media such as Facebook or Twitter. 
  • Take part in any election-related demonstration or procession.
  • Wear or display clothing that promotes a political party or candidate.
  • Conduct opinion polling of voters.
On election day you may:
  • Wear a party lapel badge or rosette in public bearing the party’s name, emblem, slogan or logo (but not the candidate’s name or other content).
  • Display streamers, rosettes, ribbons or similar items in party colours on people or vehicles (subject to the prohibition on processions). 
  • Contact voters to offer help to get to a voting place.  But, you must not say or do anything that influences voters as to the party or candidate they should or should not vote for.
  • Continue to display fixed signs that were up before election day on party headquarters and MP offices, including party names, slogans or logos that do not relate specifically to the election campaign.
  • Keep existing election material up on a website as long as the material is not updated on election day, it is only made available to people who voluntarily access it, and the website is not advertised.

The Electoral Commission's role

There is a high level of public awareness about the prohibition on campaigning on election day and breaches are likely to generate complaints.

Where the Commission is notified of a breach of the rules or receives a complaint it will investigate the incident and may refer the matter to the Police.

On election day, if you are in doubt about how a rule applies or if you wish to notify the Electoral Commission of a breach, contact us on 0800 36 76 56 or email enquiries@elections.govt.nz.

The election day rules explained

Hoardings

All election billboards must be removed by midnight on 19 September 2014 (the day before election day) at the latest. 

Sign-written vehicles

It is an offence to exhibit any party name, emblem, slogan or logo on a vehicle on election day. 

Sign-written vehicles, including MP vehicles that include a candidate or party name, emblem, slogan or logo should not be displayed on election day. Vehicles with bumper stickers promoting a candidate or party should also be kept out of public view. Flags with a party emblem, slogan or logo should not be displayed.

Fixed signage on party headquarters and MP’s electorate offices

Fixed signage containing a statement, party name, logo, slogan or emblem on party headquarters may remain on view on election day if it does not refer specifically to the election campaign.

MPs’ permanent electorate office signage may remain up on election day provided it does not contain any statement likely to influence voters.

This exception does not apply to signage on mobile headquarters i.e. signage on vehicles. 

Delivery of election material prohibited

Election material must not be delivered through the post, directly to mailboxes or in person on election day.  

NZ Post will not accept election-related mail for delivery after the Thursday in the week before election day (Thursday, 11 September 2014).  To reduce the risk of postal delivery on election day mail should be clearly identifiable as being election-related.  

If you, or your supporters, 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.  

Websites and social media

The election day rules apply to statements published or broadcast in any media including on the internet.  These rules apply equally to websites as they do to the use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. 

Election advertising does not have to be removed from websites or social media so long as:

  • the material was published before election day
  • the material is only made available to people who voluntarily access it (paid advertising that appears unsolicited on a page cannot stay up), and
  • no advertisements promoting the page or site are published on election day.

The steps you may need to take to ensure the rules are not breached will depend on the level of interactivity that is provided to others on the webpage or website.

To avoid complaints on election day we recommend that the comment function on Facebook pages (or the page itself) that candidates, parties or third parties have used to post election-related material are temporarily deactivated so that other persons cannot post messages on election day before 7pm.  Posts on Facebook or Twitter that are not connected in any way with the election can of course be posted on election day.  

Likewise, you may want to amend the settings for content posted on YouTube, or similar websites that have a comment function, to ensure that your supporters do not commit an offence by posting messages on election day before 7pm.

Processions and demonstrations

The electoral rules prohibit any person at any time on election day, before 7pm, from holding or taking part in any demonstration or procession or using a loud hailer or public address apparatus that has direct or indirect reference to the election. 

The electoral rules do not provide a statutory definition of a procession.  However, in light of the purpose of the election day rules, the Commission’s view is that any co-ordinated activity involving multiple cars or persons on election day wearing party colours is likely to be a breach of the rules even if there are no slogans or party names displayed.

Streamers, rosettes, ribbons etc

You can wear a party lapel badge or rosette on your lapel on election day.  The badge or rosette can be in party colours and include the party’s name, emblem, slogan or logo (but not the candidate’s name).  No other information should be included on it.  Only one badge or rosette is allowed per person.

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.  Such items must not contain party names, emblems, slogans, logos or candidate’s name.

Clothing promoting the party or candidate

Clothing (e.g. t-shirts) with slogans or logos that promote a party or candidate must not be displayed on election day.  Supporters can wear clothing in party colours.

Imitation ballot papers

Do not print, publish or distribute, on election day or after midnight on the Tuesday before election day, 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 or parties even if it is not an imitation of a ballot paper.

Posting a completed voting paper online on election day or in the three days prior to election day is likely to be an offence under section 197 of the Electoral Act.

Publishing a photo of a completed voting paper earlier in the advance voting period would not appear to be a breach of the Electoral Act.  It does, however, appear to be contrary to the spirit and purpose of the secrecy provisions and provisions forbidding the distribution of imitation ballot papers.  Where candidates and supporters have posted images of completed voting papers they should take them down.

The Commission advises candidates, parties and supporters to exercise caution when it comes to publishing or distributing material that includes a ballot paper, particularly in a medium where material will continue to be published.  

Assistance to get to a voting place

A party, candidate or third party may wish to offer voters assistance to get to the voting place.  You are entitled to contact potential voters on election day for that purpose.  However, you are not allowed to say or do anything which encourages potential voters to vote, or not to vote for a party or candidate.

Contacting voters in any other way

If supporters will be contacting voters door-to-door, by phone, or by text message on election day, act early and seek advice from the Electoral Commission on a script or pre-approved message. Ensure your supporters stick to the script on the day.  If you do not seek advice from the Electoral Commission before the day, there is a risk that your supporters may breach the law.

At the voting place

Candidates, third parties and their supporters (except an authorised scrutineer) may only enter a voting place for the purpose of voting.  

Parties, candidates and third parties are asked to exercise restraint in the vicinity of voting places to avoid complaints.  It is an offence to interfere with an elector who is in, or on their way to, a voting place with the intention of influencing the elector or advising the elector how they should vote.

Candidates and others can be photographed or filmed at a voting place as long as:

  • The prior approval of the Returning Officer has been obtained.
  • No photographs or footage are taken of voters actually completing their ballot papers or showing how a person voted. 
  • No filming behind voting screens, no filming of completed or uncompleted ballot papers.
  • There is no disruption of voters voting, or officials performing their duties.
  • No undue delays are caused to voters.
  • No interviews are conducted in or near the voting place.

Voters should not take ‘selfies’ in the voting place – it is important that people are not disrupted when they are voting and nothing is done that could compromise the secrecy of the vote.

Scrutineers

Scrutineers may be appointed by candidates to observe in advance voting places and voting places and during the preliminary count.  Scrutineers may wear party lapel badges.  They must not communicate with voters.  Scrutineers are entitled to record the line and page number of voters who have voted.  More information for scrutineers is available here.

Campaigning around advance voting places

The election day rules do not apply during the advance voting period.  For candidates and campaign managers our advice is:

  • Please exercise restraint around the vicinity of advance voting places to avoid complaints from voters and to ensure that voters have a good voting experience. 
  • Campaigning should not be undertaken immediately outside advance voting places.
  • Campaign material should not be distributed or displayed immediately outside advance voting places.
Last updated: 17 September 2014