Part 3: Election day

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

Key messages

News items broadcast before 7pm must not include any words or images likely to influence voters.
Newspapers published or distributed from 6pm on the day before election day to 7pm on election day should not include anything that could influence voters.
Restrictions apply to photographing or filming voters or candidates at or near voting places.
Election material should not be delivered to voters on election day.
All election advertising that can be seen from a public place must be removed or covered before election day.

No campaigning on election day

The Electoral Act prohibits campaigning of any kind on election day and a person is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of $20,000. The prohibition covers any statement that is likely to influence a voter as to which candidate(s) or party(s) a voter should, or should not vote for, or which influences people to abstain from voting. The general intention is to leave voters alone from midnight until 7pm on election day so they can vote without interference.

Election day publications

All election advertising and other statements by anybody, including the media, which could influence voters cannot be published on election day (23 September) until after the close of the poll at 7pm.

Newspapers published after 6pm on the day before election day are treated as being published on election day. [Electoral Act, section 197(1)(g)]

It is not a defence to argue that an election day publication is balanced (e.g., it looks at the pros and cons of a particular issue that has featured during the election campaign), or that it does not mention the name of a party or candidate, or that all candidates or parties are given equal coverage. The test is whether the publication is likely to influence a voter.

Election day broadcasts

News media may broadcast news in relation to an election provided the content is not likely to influence voters [Electoral Act, section 197(1)(c)(iii)]. For example, a news item may note that the election is taking place, when results will be available, and have footage of party leaders casting their votes. Candidate and party names can be mentioned, but the item must not include any words or visual images that are likely to influence voters about how they should vote.

Broadcasters should take care with any items that feature candidates or parties, or include interviews with candidate or party officials. If in any doubt, broadcasters should delay broadcasting an election-related item until after the polls close at 7pm.

Community stations also need to take care that programmes that would breach the election day rules are not scheduled to be repeated on election day.

Examples:

  • News coverage broadcast before 7pm that shows a candidate at an election-related demonstration would be in breach of the election day rules.
  • An item broadcast before 7pm commenting on a party’s likelihood of winning an electorate seat or passing the 5% party vote threshold would breach the election day rules. 

Media at voting places

Media organisations can take photos or film at a voting place as long as:

  • the prior approval of the Returning Officer has been obtained. Media should contact the Electoral Commission before election day to arrange this
  • no photographs or footage are taken of voters actually completing their ballot papers or showing how a person voted. Media cannot go behind the voting screens
  • photographers or camera crews do not disrupt voters from voting, or officials from their duties
  • no undue delays are caused to voters
  • no interviews are conducted in or too near to the voting place.

Websites

Election material does not have to be removed from a media website on election day, so long as the material on the site is only made available to people who voluntarily access it. New election material that could influence electors 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 editorial content or for personal political views online by individuals on election day.

Where relevant, you should ensure public message boards and comment areas on a 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 a 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.

Delivery of election material

Election material must not be delivered through the post or directly to mailboxes on election day. To avoid breaches, NZ Post will not accept election-related mail for delivery after Thursday 14 September (9 days before election day).

To reduce the risk of delivery on election day, distributors should ensure that particular care is taken with the delivery of election-related material or inserts.

If material is hand-delivered directly to mailboxes on the Friday before election day, voters will often complain because they think the material arrived on election day.

Last updated: 30 March 2017