Is it time for for a change to electoral law?

At the 2011 election th Electoral Commission made it plain the rules surrounding social media. There was even media coverage at the time of the rules.

The NZ Herald reported:

Twitter and Facebook users face $20,000 fines if they use their accounts to campaign for their favourite party or leader on election day.

Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden said material posted on social media websites was covered by strict rules which prohibit electioneering on election days.

“People should be aware that if they tweeted on election day to influence how somebody votes they will be breaching the [Electoral] Act and the [Electoral] Commission will take action.”

He said while people could leave websites with campaign material up on election day, they could not add further material or advertise the website.

Pretty clear stuff. It isn’t really feasible for David Cunliffe to claim he wasn’t aware of the rules. They haven’t changed. 

3News also reported:

At midnight tonight election campaigns will be over, politicians will relax, and attempts to sway voters must stop for polling day.

That applies to everyone – it’s illegal to publish any comments likely to influence the way someone might vote, including online.

It will be a new policing challenge for the electoral commission.

The Electoral Commission does a good job in  difficult situation, and at the last election they referred more than 30 complaints to the Police for prosecution.

The Police have ignored every single one of those complaints and now as we head into the next election in 2014 they remain outstanding and un-prosecuted.

This sends a signal to politicians, who are ratbags at the best of times, that there will be no sanction for breaking the law. Essentially the laws which govern our elections, the very core of democracy are broken. If no one is prosecuted or sanctioned then why bother having the laws in the first place.

I think it is time that someone else other than the Police were given the task. They have simply failed to guard our democracy for not just 3 years but for many, many years.

For David Cunliffe though, in Labour’s latest breach of the law, alongside the explicit warnings from the Electoral Commissioner ahead of the 2011 election, it serves to illustrate how big-a-lie the – ‘I didn’t know’ defence is for such a senior MP?

It is highly likely that any referral to Police will result in a failure to investigate, let alone prosecute. Our democracy is broken, which is probably pleasing news to Labour since it is unlikely that they will be called upon to pay a tax to the party to stump up for Cunliffe’s $20,000 fine.

If the man who would be Prime Minister is willing to break little laws, what are the big ones he will be prepared to break?

 


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.

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