Election day isn’t just for voting, there are countless rules to follow between the hours of 12am and 7pm on October 14. Professional voter Madeleine Chapman spells them out.
This article was first published in September 2017. Incredibly, only the names have been updated. Winston Peters is still the same.
At 11.59pm on Friday October 14, New Zealand will be as it has been for the past two months. Drowning in a swamp of an election, desperately reaching for the surface only to grab more Winston Peters and sink further. But as that clock strikes midnight and someone inevitably pashes someone they don’t like on the dancefloor at Longroom, the election will be erased. For it will be election day and only on election day is it illegal to propagandise about the election.
Thanks to laws written before the internet and seemingly before independent thinking, it’s illegal to influence voters on election day in any way, shape or form. That means when you wake up on Saturday morning and head out to vote (unless you’re one of more than a million New Zealanders who’ll have already voted), there’ll be something different in the air. Something like an emptiness.
Here’s what is and isn’t legal on election day and what to do if you spot any criminal behaviour.
NOTE: although they’re a bit ridiculous and funny, these are actual laws and people have been prosecuted for breaking them. But also they’re dumb and should really be updated.
All parties will be sending their minions out late Friday night to take down every last vandalised hoarding. The implication is that if you drive to a voting booth and see Winston Peters’ face on the way, you’ll vote for Winston Peters. The implication is that we’re all idiots and if you see a hoarding while out and about on Saturday you should call the police.
NO CARS WITH FACES ON THEM
What’s more persuasive than a hoarding? A car with a politician’s face on it. They too must be kept covered and out of sight from midnight to 7pm on election day. Luckily MPs get paid way more than the average voter so they’ll probably have a garage in which to hide their giant face cars. If you see David Seymour driving his David Seymour car through the McDonald’s drive-thru at 1am on Saturday, call the police.
A hoarding is a constant static advertisement. A face car is a moving advertisement. But an actual face is the greatest advertisement of all. There is no rule stating that politicians aren’t allowed in public on election day but based on the strictness of not putting your face in front of voters, I assume they all have to stay hidden until 7pm. If you see any candidate walking around the mall without a pixelated face, call the police before someone has their vote influenced.
If you receive a political ad in the mail on Saturday, call the police. If you think it may have been delivered on Friday but you only checked on Saturday, it’ll have the same effect but is completely legal. My advice would be to not look in your mailbox, around your mailbox, or anywhere outside until you reach the voting booth. If you come into contact with any material that bears the name or face of a candidate, call the police.
For some reason there’s a real emphasis in Electoral Law on megaphones and the fact that you simply cannot use one on election day to yell about politics. If you merely chatted to a friend about voting, that’s fine. If you were at the park and chatting a bit loud and someone else heard you, that’s legal albeit rude. But a megaphone? Don’t you dare.
No one is allowed to wear any piece of candidate merch. You can rep your colours and you can wear a political party lapel badge (which of course everyone owns) but ONLY ONE BADGE OR ROSETTE IS ALLOWED PER PERSON. If you have one of those Obama t-shirts from 2008, leave it at home. If you have a concert t-shirt from when you saw The National perform live, cover that shit up or someone (me) will call the police.
Media are not allowed to publish any article or news item pertaining to the election unless it is about how to vote or how to watch election coverage. If you’re sick of seeing the names Patrick Gower, Audrey Young and Toby Manhire in your timeline, election day will be your only respite. Enjoy the politics-free 19 hours between midnight and 7pm and then hide in a cave for the next 3 years. If you see Toby Manhire in person or in print, call the police.
NO SOCIAL MEDIA
The classic I-just-voted-here’s-me-looking-good-with-a-sticker selfie is allowed and encouraged [update: there are NO stickers this time, sorry]. But don’t you dare say who you voted for. Instead, if you take your dog (or your cat?!) to the voting booth, please take a photo of just the pet and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can include it in our very legal liveblog of democratic dogs.
To summarise, don’t wear a mask of a politician’s face; don’t wear your Greens vintage sweater even though it’s the only political merch in history that people wear outside of an election; and don’t write post an IG story about why everyone should vote for Greens/TOP/National because this far into the election campaign, no one cares. Also all those things are illegal.
But you know what’s great? You can vote today if you want. And if you want, you can do any and all of the things listed above. What’s the difference between posting a political statement at 11.59pm and posting one at midnight, you ask?
Like I said, it makes no sense.