We're going to the polls on November 26. Let the law begin!

May I just say how happy I am that John Key reads Pundit, even if it takes a good six months for the advice to sink in fully. He is "doing the right thing" by announcing a November 26 election date this early in the piece, as he put it at his press conference. And good on him for that.

Also, props to David Farrar for picking this date as long ago as March last year. But less so to Mike Smith at The Standard ... guess this is one occasion where thinking the worst of your political opponents just wasn't justified!

For those few election law aficionados out there, John Key's announcement means that the "regulated period" will commence one second after midnight on Friday the 26th of August. (Any talk of "an official campaign launch date" and "a four week campaign" is political puffery rather than having any legal meaning.) Note that fact - simply by holding this press conference and making this announcement, John Key triggered the application of a fairly extensive regulatory regime. Anyone know of any other examples of potential legal liability coming into being as the consequence of a public official "iss[uing] a media statement"?

So, if you are planning on "incur[ring] advertising expenses exceeding $12,000 ... in relation to election advertisements" after August 26, you'll want to get yourself registered as a promoter before doing so. And don't forget that you'll only be able to spend  $300,000 (GST inclusive) on telling everyone else how they should vote. Truly, our democracy is under attack.

Oh yeah - same thing goes for anyone planning to tell people what to think about the referendum on MMP. You're covered too.

And MPs ... better note that you won't be able to use your parliamentary funding entitlements to publish any election advertisements after August 26. So you'd better think about printing and distributing your glossy head shot pamphlets before that date rolls around. You will, however, be able to keep using your taxpayer funded travel privileges and office staff to help you get re-elected!

Comments (8)

by Graeme Edgeler on February 02, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

For those few election law aficionados out there, John Key's announcement means that the "regulated period" will commence one second after midnight on Friday the 26th of August. (Any talk of "an official campaign launch date" and "a four week campaign" is political puffery rather than having any legal meaning.)

The regulated period may begin on 26 August, but the election period begins on Wednesday 26 October. Which is pretty close to a "four week campaign" and most certainly has legal meaning.

by BeShakey on February 02, 2011
BeShakey

So does this mean I can launch a widescale campaign with the knowledge of the date that I need to wind up my campaign to avoid much of the election regulations?  If so, this early announcement gives me plenty of time to plan and launch my campaign, get some public awareness, and then merely keep that rolling with a more small scale campaign during the regulated period. 

by Andrew Geddis on February 02, 2011
Andrew Geddis

BeShakey,

Yes. Mind you, he could have kept quiet about the election date until as late as 8 August and then announce it would be on November 26 with the same outcome. So I still think it is to the good that he's created certainty this early in the piece.

by Pete Sime on February 02, 2011
Pete Sime

How do the campaign laws apply to no-cost efforts like putting together things like Facebook pages, freely hosted blogs or Youtube videos? Would activists and tech nerds with political inclinations have to disclose their interests? Is the law equipped to deal with the social networking environment that Obama, for example, made great use of in 2008?

by Andrew Geddis on February 02, 2011
Andrew Geddis

Pete,

There is an exemption in the definition of "election advertisement" (which is what is regulated under the Electoral Act) for: "any publication on the Internet, or other electronic medium, of personal political views by an individual who does not make or receive a payment in respect of the publication of those views." So there is no need to disclose who is behind such efforts, nor do any costs involved count towards any cap on expenses.

by BeShakey on February 02, 2011
BeShakey

Thanks Andrew.  My question was more about whether someone can now launch a campaign now to avoid the financial and disclosure requirements of the regulated period.  The closer to the election the announcment is, the harder to do this.  So while this could have happened with an 8 August announcment, its much easier with the current announcement.  And while I was initially asking simply out of curiosity, I can imagine someone like Peter Shirtcliffe might be very keen to do some campaigning earlier in the year if he could do so with fewer restrictions (and he may well have some success if he could do so).

by Andrew Geddis on February 02, 2011
Andrew Geddis

BeShakey,

Not quite sure what you mean by "The closer to the election the announcement is, the harder to do this." From a legal point of view, there is no advantage whatsoever gained by announcing the date now, versus any point up to August 8. It does not affect anyone's ability to spend outside of the legislative limits. So, whatever other political advantages the announcement may have conferred, this wasn't it.

by Pete Sime on February 02, 2011
Pete Sime

Thanks Andrew. Much appreciated.

Post new comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.