Party Secretary handbook

This section explains the rules parties must follow for election and referendum advertising and campaigning, including how much you can spend on advertising, restrictions on campaigning once voting has started and complaints about election advertising.

What is an election advertisement?

An election advertisement is an advertisement that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote or not vote for a:

  • candidate
  • party
  • type of candidate or party the advertisement describes by referencing views they do or don’t hold.

Election advertisements about electorate candidates are called candidate advertisements, and election advertisements about parties are called party advertisements. 

What is a referendum advertisement?

A referendum advertisement is an advertisement that could reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote or not vote in a particular way in a referendum.

Whether an advertisement encourages or persuades voters depends on its effect as a whole

An advertisement doesn’t have to include a candidate or party’s name to be an election advertisement. Similarly, it doesn’t have to include a referendum question to be a referendum advertisement.

An advertisement’s encouragement or persuasion can be direct or indirect. Whether an advertisement encourages or persuades voters depends on its:

  • content
  • style
  • apparent purpose
  • factual context
  • effect as a whole

We must assess whether something is an election advertisement from the perspective of a reasonable observer, recognising the importance and value of political speech in a democracy (The Electoral Commission v Watson & Anor 2016).

Election and referendum advertisements can be in any medium

Election and referendum advertisements can be in any medium, such as:

  • newspapers
  • magazines
  • posters
  • billboards
  • leaflets
  • TV and radio broadcasting
  • online advertising

Unpaid advertising can still be an election or referendum advertisement.

There are exceptions to election and referendum advertisement rules

The following don’t count as election or referendum advertisements:

  • editorial content
  • personal political views online
  • an MP’s contact details

Editorial content is any part of a publication except advertising or advertorials. 

Editorial content in periodicals, radio or TV programmes, and on news media websites are not election or referendum advertisements. 

Editorial content includes any part of the publication except advertising, advertorials and sponsored content. It can include opinion and editorial pieces that others write, and contributions from readers the editor has chosen to publish.

A periodical is a newspaper, magazine, or journal that:

  • was established for reasons unrelated to the election
  • is published regularly
  • is available to the public.

A periodical can be digital or printed.

Personal political views online aren’t advertising if they’re unpaid.

An individual publishing their personal political views on the internet or other electronic medium doesn’t count as election or referendum advertising. This exemption covers people posting on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

This exemption doesn’t cover:

  • any paid content
  • anyone expressing the political views of a group, organisation or political party.

Election and referendum rules apply to advertisements published in New Zealand or overseas

The rules apply to referendum advertisements or election advertisements published either:

  • in New Zealand, even if the promoter is outside New Zealand
  • outside New Zealand, only if the promoter is in New Zealand.

Publish means to bring to a person’s attention in any way, except for talking to the person face to face.

Your party’s advertisements must include a promoter statement

All your party’s election and referendum advertisements must include a promoter statement, even advertisements you don’t publish during the regulated period.

There’s a limit to how much your party can spend on advertising

There’s a limit to how much your party can spend on election advertising during the regulated period.

There’s another, separate limit to how much your party can spend on referendum advertising for each referendum during the regulated period.

You can get an advisory opinion on whether your advertisement is an election advertisement, a referendum advertisement or both

You can ask us for our opinion on whether your advertisement counts as an election advertisement, a referendum advertisement, or both. We don’t charge a fee for this.

Our advisory opinions are not legal advice.

Our opinions are our interpretation of the Electoral Act and Referendums Framework Act. They're not legally binding or legal advice, and a court of law may reach a different opinion. You may want to get your own legal advice before you publish your advertisement.

Send us your request by email. To make a request, please send us:

  • a copy of the advertisement
  • how you'll publish it
  • when you'll publish it
  • the scale you'll publish it on.

Email advisory@elections.govt.nz

We'll send you an advisory opinion as soon as we can.

Once we get your request, we'll respond with an advisory opinion as soon as we can. We'll aim to respond within 5 working days.

We’ll keep your request confidential until the election is over.

We'll treat your request and our advice as confidential until after 13 November 2020.

After that, we'll make our opinions available if someone asks for them, subject to the Official Information Act.

You can publicly release the advice we give you at any time, if you want to.

You must declare who is promoting your advertisements

All your party’s election and referendum advertisements must include a promoter statement. This applies at all times, not just during the regulated period. A promoter statement shows the name and address of the person promoting the advertisement.

As party secretary, your name and address need to be in promoter statements for your party’s advertisements.

We recommend you word your promoter statements like this:

Promoted or authorised by [your name], [your full street address].

Your promoter statements must be easy to see or hear

You must clearly display the promoter statement in your party’s advertisements. 

In our view, this doesn’t mean someone should be able to read the promoter statement from where you mean them to see the advertisement. 

For example, people don’t need to be able to read the promoter statement on a billboard while they’re driving past it. A person should be able to read the promoter statement if they stop to examine the billboard.

Whether you’ve clearly displayed a promoter statement depends on the advertisement and the context it’s in.

Advertisements related to an election or referendum also need a promoter statement

You need a promoter statement in some types of advertisements about an election or referendum, even if they don’t encourage or persuade voters to vote or not vote for a party or candidate or referendum option and won’t count as an election or referendum expense.

For example, if you publish posters encouraging people to enrol to vote in the election, you need to include a promoter statement because it’s related to an election.

This now applies to advertisements in all mediums, including:

  • newspapers
  • magazines
  • posters
  • billboards
  • leaflets
  • TV and radio broadcasts
  • online advertising.

You could be fined if you don’t include a promoter statement 

Not including a promoter statement is an offence. If you don’t use a promoter statement when you’re meant to, you could be fined up to $40,000.

There’s a limit to how much you can spend on advertising

There’s a limit to how much your party can spend on election and referendum advertising during the regulated period.

During the regulated period, any advertising your party runs to promote itself or a referendum option counts towards your party’s expense limits.

The regulated period is from Tuesday 18 August to Friday 16 October.

Each party may have a slightly different election expense limit, depending on how many electorates it contests.

If you are a registered party and contesting the party vote, your party’s expenditure limit is $1,199,000 (including GST) plus $28,200 (including GST) per electorate contested by the party.

If your registered party isn’t contesting the party vote, your party’s election expense limit is $28,200 (including GST) for each electorate candidate for your party.

Unless you register as a referendum promoter, your party’s referendum expense limit is $13,600 per referendum. If you think your party will spend more than $13,600 on referendum advertising, you need to register as a referendum promoter. Contact us for more information.

Advertising you run or authorise during the regulated period counts towards your expense limit

Election and referendum advertisement expenses count towards your party’s limits if you publish the advertisement, or continue to publish it, during the regulated period.

If someone you approve promotes your party, this will also count toward your party’s election expense limit.

Expenses you paid or incurred outside the regulated period still count towards your limits if they were for advertisements you published during the regulated period.

Expenses include the cost of creation and the value of materials

Expenses that count towards your limit include:

  • the cost of preparing, designing, composing, printing, posting and publishing the advertisement
  • the reasonable market value of any materials you use for the advertisement. This includes materials you get for free or below reasonable market value.

Election expenses don’t include the cost of:

  • your nomination depositsyour nomination deposits
  • food
  • hiring halls
  • election advertising expenses the broadcasting allocation pays for.

Election and referendum expenses don’t include the cost of:

  • surveys or opinion polls
  • free labour
  • replacing materials destroyed through no fault of your own
  • framework that holds up your advertisements (except for commercial frames)
  • running any vehicle you use to display advertisements.

Stay in touch with your candidates

Stay in touch with your electorate and list candidates about advertising.

The content of your electorate candidates’ advertisements may mean they count towards the spending limits of both them and your party.

As party secretary, you must authorise any election expenses your candidates incur promoting your party. Those expenses count towards your party’s expense limits.

Keep a record of what you spend on advertising

Keep a record of what you spend on advertising as you spend it.

You’ll need to report your party’s election expenses to us after the election. You may also need to report your party’s referendum expenses, but only if your party spends over $100,000 on referendum advertisements during the regulated period.

Take all reasonable steps to keep records of all your party’s election and referendum expenses. You must keep invoices and receipts for all election expenses of $100 or more for 3 years after you’ve reported your expenses to us.

Expenses for advertisements that continue into the regulated period count towards your limit

If your party publishes an advertisement before the regulated period, the costs of continuing to publish it during the regulated period will go towards your party’s expense limits.

You must split the expenses so you assign a fair proportion to the regulated period.

For example, if your party runs an internet advertisement for 3 months before and 3 months during the regulated period, half the total expenses count towards your party’s expense limit.

Contact us if you have any questions about splitting your expenses.

You must split expenses if you share an advertisement with a candidate or another party

You must split expenses if your party’s election advertisement also promotes a candidate, another registered party, or both.

Joint election and referendum advertisements count towards both your limits

You can’t split the cost of advertisements that are both election and referendum advertisements.

If someone else pays an expense for you, it still counts towards your limit

If someone gives or pays for something that would otherwise be an expense, it counts towards your party’s expense limit. The expense is the reasonable market value for the good or service your party got.

If the reasonable market value is more than $1,500, you should also record it as a donation to your party. There are more strict requirements for donations from an overseas person.

Reusing items from previous elections counts towards your expense limit

If your party reuses something, such as a banner, from a previous election, its reasonable market value goes towards your party’s expense limit. You can’t split an expense over multiple elections.

We suggest you record the price you originally paid for the item. If you don’t know the original price, record what the item would cost now, based on two quotes.

Pay all election advertising bills by Friday 29 January and referendum advertising bills by Monday 25 January

Make sure you get all the invoices for your party’s election expenses by Friday 10 December (within 20 working days of declaring the election of list members).

You must pay all these invoices by Friday 29 January (within 40 working days of us declaring the election of list members). It’s an offence to not pay your invoices on time.

Make sure you get all the invoices for your party’s referendum expenses by Monday 4 December (within 20 working days of us declaring the official result).

You must pay all these invoices by Monday 25 January (within 40 working days of us declaring the official result). It’s an offence to not pay your invoices on time.

If you’re disputing a bill, you can follow the procedure in sections 205H and 205I of the Electoral Act or sections 69-70 of the Referendums Framework Act.

We allocate some money for broadcast and internet advertising

For each general election, the Electoral Commission allocates funds to registered parties to spend on broadcast and internet advertising. We don’t allocate funds for by-elections, nor do we allocate funds directly to electorate candidates.

Parliament has allocated $3,605,000 (plus GST) for the broadcasting allocation for the 2020 General Election. Parties had to apply to us by 28 February for us to consider allocating funds to them and must be registered by 6 September (the date of dissolution of Parliament) to be eligible to receive these funds.

Your party can use the broadcasting allocation on election advertisements, including referendum advertisements.

If we allocate funds to your party, you must report to us on how you spend them.

Read more about reporting your allocation expenses.

Send us your party’s invoices for broadcasting allocation costs by Monday 1 February 2021 (within 50 working days of the end of the month of the election). We’ll pay the invoices on your party’s behalf.

How the rules apply to your advertising, shared advertising and advertising by others that you approve

Your party advertising

As party secretary, you must include a promoter statement with your name and address in advertisements that your party promotes.

Your address can be the full street address of either:

  • the place where you usually live
  • any other place where usually someone can contact you between 9am and 5pm on any working day.

For example, you could use your campaign office or party headquarters address.

Talk to your employer before putting your work address on any election advertising. You can’t use a post office box or website address.

How you refer to websites can affect who you’re promoting.

If your party’s advertising refers to a website, the content of the website may help decide whether the advertising is:

  • an election or referendum advertisement
  • a party advertisement, a candidate advertisement, or both.

Listing a website is fine, but if you use words or graphics that encourage readers to visit a website, consider the content of both the advertisement and the website.

For example, if your party’s print advertisement encourages readers to visit a website, and the website encourages them to vote for a candidate, your party is promoting that candidate.

You can share advertisements with your candidates or another party

You can share advertisements with your candidates, another registered party, or both. You’ll need to get or give written permission and split the expenses.

You can promote candidates and other parties in your advertising.

As well as promoting your party, your advertisements can promote your candidates, another registered party, or both. You must get prior written authorisation from the candidate or party secretary.

Your party’s advertisements that promote the party and your candidates only need one promoter statement. In this case your party is the promoter and the advertisement will only need your name and address.

Candidates or parties can promote you in their advertising

Your candidates and other registered parties can also promote your party in their advertising. You must give the candidate or other party your written authorisation first. The candidate or other party must include their details in the promoter statement.

You must split expenses if your party shares an advertisement with a party or candidate

If an advertisement promotes your party and your candidates, another registered party, or both, you must split the expenses with them.

Base how you split the expenses on the coverage each of you gets in the advertisement. Contact us if you have any questions about splitting your expenses.

An example of splitting expenses between your party and a candidate

Your party and one of its candidates agree to advertise on a billboard for 3 months during the regulated period.

About 40 percent of the content on the billboard asks voters to give their party vote to your party.

The other 60 percent asks voters to give their electorate vote to your party’s candidate.

The total cost of the advertising is $15,000.

  • artwork and photography of the candidate costs $1,000
  • artwork and photography of the party leader costs $2,000
  • general design, production, printing, materials, assembly, and transport costs $8,000
  • renting the billboard for 3 months costs $4,000.

The candidate artwork and photography costs are a candidate expense, and the party leader artwork and photography costs are a party expense.

The rest of the costs don’t clearly relate to either the party or the candidate. You must split these costs according to the coverage the party and candidate each get in the advertisement. So 60 percent of these costs will be the candidate’s expenses, and 40 percent will be the party’s expenses. The table below shows how your party should split expenses with the candidate.

Cost Candidate expense Party expense
Artwork and photography of the candidate $1,000 $0
Artwork and photography of the party leader $0 $2,000
General design, production, printing, materials, assembly, and transport $4,800 $3,200
Renting the billboard for 3 months $2,400 $1,600
Total $8,200 $6,800

If your party pays the full $15,000 for the advertisement, the $8,200 still counts towards the candidate’s expense limit. The $8,200 will also count as a donation from your party to the candidate.

Your party can promote itself and one or more referendum options

If your advertisement is both an election and a referendum advertisement, the full cost counts towards your election expense limit and your referendum expense limits. You can’t split the cost of the advertisement.

Other people and organisations can promote you

Third parties, people or groups other than candidates or registered parties can promote your party in their advertisements. They must include their name and address in the promoter statement.
The third party must have your prior written authorisation to promote your party.

The full cost of third party advertisements counts towards your expense limit.

You can’t split expenses with third parties like you can with candidates or other registered parties.

If you authorise someone else to publish advertising encouraging people to vote for your party, the full cost of that advertising will count towards your party’s expense limit. The same costs will also count towards the third party’s expense limit.

Get the information you need about the cost of the advertising from the third party.

How the advertising and expenditure rules apply to different types of advertising

The medium your party’s advertisement is in can affect how the election advertising rules apply.

The following summary table below provides an overview of the rules. The rest of this section then provides further information about how the rules apply to websites, social media, online advertising, tv and radio, publications, signage, giveaways, staff time, surveys.

TV and radio advertising using broadcasting allocation

When broadcasts allowed

Must be authorised by

Party election expense?

Electorate candidate expense?

Referendum expense?

Promoting party or referendum option, or attacking party or candidate Election period (13 September to 16 October)

 

 

Party secretary Not an election expense
An allocation expense included in party's return of allocation expenses
 
Not applicable
The allocation can be used to broadcast about the referendums. The costs of advertising using the allocation are not an election expense, but the full cost will be referendum expenses.
Promoting both party and electorate candidate
Election period (13 September to 16 October)  Both the party secretary and electorate candidate
Not an election expense
An allocation expense included in party's return of allocation expenses
 
Yes (for the cost of the portion of the ad relating to the electorate candidate) and value is a donation by the party to that candidate.
Not applicable
Promoting electorate candidate only
Election period (13 September to 16 October)  Electorate candidate
Not an election expense
An allocation expense included in party's return of allocation expenses
Yes (and value is a donation by the party to the electorate candidate)
Not applicable

TV and radio advertising using party's funds

When broadcasts allowed

Must be authorised by

Party election expense?

Electorate candidate expense?

Referendum expense?

Promoting party, candidate and party, or referendum option, or attacking another party or candidate
Not allowed
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Promoting electoral candidate only
Election period (13 September to 16 October)  Electorate candidate
No
Yes (and value is a donation by the party to the electorate candidate)
Not applicable

Internet advertising using broadcasting allocation

When allowed

Must be authorised by

Party expense

Electorate candidate expense?

Referendum expense?

Production costs
At any time provided advertising published during election period (13 September to
16 October)
 
Advertising must be authorised by party secretary and/or electorate candidate if it features the candidate    Not an election expense
An allocation expense included in party's return of allocation expenses
 
Not if it only relates to party. The costs will be a candidate election expense (and donation to the electorate candidate) to the extent the advertising promotes the candidate   If the allocation is used for referendums advertising or joint election and referendum advertising, the full cost will be referendum expenses.  
Placement costs
Election period (13 September to
16 October)
 
Not an election expense
An allocation expense included in party's return of allocation expenses

 Non-broadcast advertising using party's funds (including internet)

Period for which counted as election expense and or referendum expense

Must be authorised by

Party expense?

Electorate candidate expense?

Referendum expense?

Promoting party vote, referendum option or attacking party or candidate
Regulated period
(18 August to 16 October)
 
Party secretary
Party election expense
No
Yes, the full cost also a referendum expense
Promoting both party vote and electorate candidate
Regulated period
(18 August to 16 October)
 
Both the party secretary and electorate candidate Party election expense (for the cost of that portion of the ad relating to the party) Yes(for the cost of that portion of the ad relating to the electorate candidate) Not applicable
Promoting electorate candidate Regulated period
(18 August to 16 October)
 Electorate candidate
 No
Yes Not applicable

Your party website or social media account

Your party’s whole website or social media account is an election advertisement if any part of it could be seen as encouraging or persuading voters to vote or not vote for a party or candidate.

The whole website or account is a referendum advertisement if any part of it could be seen as encouraging or persuading voters to vote or not vote in a particular way for the referendum.

Even if your party doesn’t pay to promote its website or social media account, it can still count as an election or referendum advertisement.

The exemption for personal political views online usually applies to individuals posting comments on your party’s website or social media pages.

You need a promoter statement on your party’s website or account.

On websites, put your promoter statement on the page that contains the election or referendum advertising. If you have many pages with election advertising, put your promoter statement on your homepage.

On social media accounts, include your promoter statement in your ‘About’ or profile section.

You don’t need a promoter statement if you like or share an election or referendum advertisement that someone else published on social media.

Setting up and looking after the hardware and software behind your website doesn’t count towards your expense limits

Election and referendum expenses for websites and social media include the costs of:

  • preparation
  • design
  • publication
  • hosting fees.

The costs of setting up and looking after the hardware and software of the website don’t count towards your party’s expense limits.

You can make your website accessible

We recommend you make your party’s website as easy to access as possible. For example, you could make sure your website meets the New Zealand Government Web Accessibility Standard.

This isn’t compulsory, but it’ll make your website easy to access for people:

  • with low vision
  • with reading, learning or intellectual disabilities
  • using phones, tablets, screen readers or speech recognition software.

Your online advertising

Your party can pay for an election or referendum advertisement to appear unsolicited on another person’s webpage. For example, you can:

  • place a banner advertisement on someone else’s website
  • promote a post on social media
  • promote a web search result.

You must include your promoter statement on the advertisement.

You must include a promoter statement on the advertisement itself. You can’t rely on linking back to another page which contains a promoter statement.

You can shorten the promoter statement if you have a limited number of pixels or characters. For example, you could shorten ‘Promoted by Anthony Secretary, 111 Any Street, Auckland’ to ‘A Secretary, 111 Any St, AKLD’.

Using your party’s funds during the regulated period counts towards your expense limit.

If your party uses its own funds to produce and place internet advertising, and it publishes the advertising during the regulated period, these costs will be election expenses.

Expenses for placing an advertisement online include the costs of:

  • preparation
  • design
  • publication
  • hosting fees.

You can use the broadcasting allocation to pay for internet advertising.

If we’ve given your party a broadcasting allocation, your party can spend the allocation on:

  • the cost of producing internet advertisements your party publishes, or continues to publish, from Sunday 13 September to Friday 16 October
  • placing or promoting internet advertisements from Sunday 13 September to Friday 16 October.

You can use the broadcasting allocation on election advertisements and referendum advertisements.

Any costs you pay with the broadcasting allocation don’t count as election expenses, but if they are referendum advertisements the full cost will count as referendum expenses.  

Your party can use its broadcasting allocation to promote a candidate with an internet advertisement.

The cost of the advertisement, or the part of the advertisement relating to the candidate, is both a:

  • candidate expense
  • donation to the candidate from your party.

Different rules apply if you advertise on TV and radio

Your registered party can advertise itself on TV or radio if it has a broadcasting allocation, but some separate rules apply.

These rules apply to a broadcast if your party sets it up and it does any of the following:

  • encourages or persuades voters to vote, or not vote, for a party or candidate
  • appears to encourage or persuade voters to vote, or not vote, for a party or candidate
  • supports or opposes a party or candidate
  • tells voters about meetings about an election.

Your party can only broadcast election advertisements from Sunday 13 September to Friday 16 October.

Your party can only broadcast election advertisements on television or radio within the election period. The election period starts on Sunday 13 September and finishes at the end of Friday 16 October, the day before election day.

The general rule is that referendum advertisements can be broadcast at any time, except for on election day. However, it is likely that broadcasting by a party about the referendum will also be an election programme and therefore can only be broadcast from Sunday 13 September to Friday 16 October.

You still need to include a promoter statement.

You must include a promoter statement in all your broadcast advertisements.

If you publish an advertisement only in an audible form, the promoter statement must be as easy to hear as the rest of the advertisement.

Only registered parties with a broadcasting allocation can promote themselves on TV and radio.

Your party can only use TV and radio to promote itself or attack other parties or candidates if:

  • your party is a registered party
  • we’ve given your party a broadcasting allocation.

Your party can only pay for broadcasting time with its broadcasting allocation

Your party can only buy time on TV or radio to promote the party with funds it gets from the broadcasting allocation. It’s illegal for your party to spend its own funds to buy time on TV or radio to promote the party.

Any costs you pay with the broadcasting allocation don’t count as election expenses but if you promote a referendum option the full cost will be a referendum expense.

Your party can use its broadcasting allocation or its own money to pay production costs

Your party can use either its broadcasting allocation or its own funds to pay production costs for TV or radio advertisements. If your party uses its own funds, the production costs count towards your party’s expense limit.

Any party can promote their candidates on TV or radio

Your party can use TV and radio to promote its electorate candidates, even if your party doesn’t have broadcasting allocation. You must get your candidates’ written authorisation first.

Your party can use its own money or its broadcasting allocation to promote a candidate

Your party can pay for broadcasting time and production costs with either its own funds or any broadcasting allocation it has.

No matter what money your party uses, all costs are both a:

  • candidate expense
  • donation to the candidate from your party.

Your party can place an advertisement in a publication

Your party can place election and referendum advertisements in publications, such as newspapers, magazines, or journals. Publications can be electronic or printed.

Editorial versus advertorial content:

If a publication, such as your local paper, asks someone in your party to write a column or opinion piece, it doesn’t count as an election or referendum advertisement. It will fall under the exception for editorial content.

However, the column or piece will count as an advertisement if your party pays a publication to run it, for example as part of an advertising package.

Your party can put up signs, banners, and posters

Your party can put up signs, banners and posters to advertise itself or a referendum option. Remember to always include your promoter statement.

Local councils are responsible for regulating election signs in their region. Local councils are responsible for regulating when, where, and how you can display election signs. Talk to your local councils about their rules before you put up any election signs.

The Local Government New Zealand website can show you how to contact local councils:

www.lgnz.co.nz/nzs-local-government/new-zealands-councils/

In the 9 weeks before election day (from Saturday 15 August), you can put up election signs that are up to 3 square metres in size. This applies wherever you are in New Zealand, but you’ll still need to follow your local council’s application processes and rules about where you can put them up. Talk to your council if you want to put up larger signs, or put up signs before 15 August.

The timing and size requirements for referendum signs may be different. You’ll need to check with your council.

Your party can only pay certain people to display election or referendum signs.

Your party can only pay someone to display an election or referendum sign if displaying signs is part of their business.

The costs of framing for election and referendum signs usually aren’t expenses.

The cost of framing material that holds up signs, such as wooden framing, doesn’t go towards your party’s expense limits unless they’re part of the cost of a commercial framework you’ve used.

Mobile advertising counts towards your expense limit.

The cost of mobile advertising, such as signage on campaign cars, goes towards your party’s expense limits.

If your party is paying to use the vehicle for displaying its advertisements, the costs of running the vehicle also go towards your party’s expense limit.

Your party can pay your campaign staff to work on advertising

The cost of paying campaign staff only counts towards your party’s expense limits if they’re directly involved in doing any of the following to an election or referendum advertisement:

  • preparing
  • designing
  • composing
  • printing
  • posting
  • publishing.

The cost of labour you get for free from a volunteer doesn’t count towards your party’s expense limit. But if a company donates its employees’ services to your party’s election or referendum campaign, the employees’ time counts towards your party’s expense limit and as a donation to your party.

Your party can give out items

Your party can give out items to supporters to promote itself or the referendum, such as t-shirts, bumper stickers, lapel badges and flags.

Count items your party gives out before the regulated period as expenses.

If your party gives out any items before the regulated period starts, assume your party’s supporters will keep displaying them during the regulated period. Count the cost of the items towards your party’s expense limit.

Your party’s supporters can’t display items on election day

Take care when giving out items to promote your party or the referendum. Your party’s supporters could break the law if they display them either:

  • within 10 metres of an advance voting place
  • anywhere on election day.

Your party can’t treat people to food, drink, or entertainment

Treating is giving people food, drink or entertainment to intentionally influence their vote. It’s a criminal offence to treat before, during or after an election. If a court convicts someone of treating, they could:

  • go to prison
  • be disqualified from voting for 3 years
  • lose their seat in parliament, if they have one.

Before you give people food, drink or entertainment, consider:

  • how much you’re giving, and how much money it’s worth. Ordinary hospitality that’s part of a political meeting isn’t treating.
  • who you’re giving to. For example, giving out food at an annual party conference, where the audience is mainly party members, is unlikely to be treating. Giving out food at a public meeting is riskier.
  • how much political material you’re giving with the food, drink or entertainment.

Providing a light supper, such as a cup of tea and a snack, after an election meeting isn’t treating.

To avoid complaints, we suggest you be cautious and restrained when giving out food, drink or entertainment as part of your campaign. Be especially cautious with giving out alcohol.

If you’re concerned that something you’re planning might be treating, you can ask us for our opinion. 

Your party can survey, poll and canvass voters

Your party’s surveys, opinion polls or telephone canvassing are election or referendum advertisements if they go beyond just getting voters' views. If they encourage or persuade voters to vote or not vote for a candidate or party or referendum option, you’ll need to follow advertising rules.

For example, if your party’s survey asks leading questions that promote your party’s policies, it’s probably an election advertisement.

We can review your canvassing script or survey and give our view on whether it’s an election advertisement.

If your party’s survey, opinion poll or telephone canvassing is an election or referendum advertisement, any costs will go towards your party’s expense limits, such as the cost of:

  • renting phone lines
  • making phone calls
  • paying a person or group carrying out the survey, opinion poll or telephone canvassing.

Face-to-face canvassing doesn’t count as election or referendum advertising

Face-to-face canvassing doesn’t count as advertising, so you don’t need a promoter statement and the costs don’t go towards your party’s expense limit.  But the cost of any items your party hands out while canvassing, such as leaflets, count towards your party’s expense limit if the items promote your party.

Your party can get information about people who are enrolled to vote

Your party can buy lists of people who are enrolled to vote to use when polling and campaigning.

Your party can buy electronic or printed copies of the lists. We’ll make printed lists available in the lead up to the 2020 General Election.

Contact our data coordinator to find out how much the lists cost and how to apply.

Email data@elections.govt.nz

Phone 04 495 0030

There are restrictions on election and referendum campaigning once voting has started

There are limits on what you can do once voting starts on Monday 3 October.

It's a criminal offence to do anything that can influence voters:

  • in an advance voting place
  • within 10 metres of an advance voting place
  • on election day.

This includes advertising, public statements, processions, and speeches, as well as displaying candidate and party names, emblems, slogans or logos. Sections 197 and 197A of the Electoral Act have the full lists of restricted activities.

These rules also apply to the referendum, referendum voting papers, activities by referendum supporters and references to referendum options.

Remove all your party’s election and referendum advertising that’s visible from a public place before election day (17 October). Returning officers can remove or cover advertising that breaches the rules.

Supporters and scrutineers can wear a party lapel badge or rosette

Your party’s supporters and scrutineers can wear a party badge or rosette on their lapel at any time, including inside voting places and on election day.

The badge can show your party's name, emblem, slogan or logo. It can’t show a candidate’s name or website. Include a promoter statement on your badge because it’s likely to be an election advertisement.

Don’t display lapel badges in other places such as on vehicles.

Your party can show and wear its colours

Your party can display streamers, ribbons and similar items in party colours within 10 metres of advance voting places and on election day if both of the following are true:

  • they are on people or vehicles
  • they don’t show party or candidate names, emblems, slogans or logos.

Your party’s supporters can also wear clothes in party colours if they don’t show party or candidate names, emblems, slogans or logos.

Referendum lapel badge, or rosette and colours

The same rules apply to the wearing of a referendum badge or rosette and colours associated with a referendum option.

Your party can’t deliver or hand out election or referendum material on election day

Your party can’t deliver election or referendum material through the post or directly to mailboxes on election day.

To avoid breaches, New Zealand Post will stop accepting election and referendum material for delivery from Thursday 8 October. Your party should clearly mark any election or referendum-related mail it sends so New Zealand Post knows not to deliver it on election day.

Be careful about hand-delivering election and referendum material to mailboxes on Friday 16 October. If a voter doesn’t check their mail until the next day, they may think it arrived on election day and complain.

We’ll review all complaints and refer them to the New Zealand Police if necessary.

You can’t hand out anything that mentions candidates, parties, or the referendums

On election day, your party can’t print or give out anything that mentions any candidates, parties, or the referendums.

It’s illegal to imitate ballot papers

It's illegal to imitate ballot papers from midnight on the Tuesday 13 October to the end of election day.

Don’t print or share anything that’s likely to influence voters and does any of the following:

  • looks like a ballot paper
  • looks like part of a ballot paper
  • lists candidates, parties, or referendum options.

Your party can contact voters on election day if it doesn’t influence their vote

Your party’s supporters can contact voters on election day to remind them to vote or offer to help them get to a voting place. They can’t say or do anything to influence their vote.

We recommend your supporters read off a script so they don’t say anything that breaks the law. Keep candidate names and referendum options out of your script. That way there's no suggestion your party’s supporters are trying to promote your party, a candidate, or how to vote in the referendum.

You can contact us to get our opinion on whether your script follows the rules for election day.

Be careful what your party posts on websites and social media

On election day, it's illegal to post or share anything that’s likely to influence voters. This includes photos of completed ballot papers. Posting your personal political views on election day can also break the law.

Your party can keep existing election and referendum material on its website or social media page, so long as all the following apply:

  • your party published the material before election day.
  • the material is only available to people who voluntarily access it.
  • your party don’t publish advertisements promoting the page or site on election day. 

We recommend you disable the public message boards and comment sections of your party’s websites and social media on election day. This will stop users from posting new election and referendum-related material.

Don’t post anything that encourages voters to vote, or not vote, for candidates, parties or referendum options. We recommend you don’t use profile pictures or frames that support a candidate, party or referendum option.

Take down your party’s signs and posters before election day

Take down your party’s election and referendum signs and posters before election day. This includes signs and graphics on vehicles, and bumper stickers.

If your party has any election or referendum signs or posters within 10 metres of what will be an advance voting place, take them down before advance voting starts.

Your party can keep its signs on its headquarters.

Your party can keep statements, party names, logos, slogans and emblems on its headquarters on election day if they don’t refer specifically to the election or referendum campaign.

This exception doesn’t apply to mobile headquarters such as caravans or camper vans.

Members of Parliament can keep signs on their offices.

Your party’s MPs can keep fixed signs on their out-of-Parliament offices if they don’t refer to the election or referendum, however we would recommend that they do not drive sign written vehicles on election day.

Your party’s candidates and supporters can only enter a voting place to vote

Your party’s candidates and supporters may only enter a voting or advance voting place to vote. Once they have voted, they must leave.

When your party’s candidates and supporters are near a voting place on election day or within 10 metres of an advance voting place, they can’t say or do anything that could influence voters. Exercise restraint to avoid complaints.

Your party’s candidates can get permission to film and photograph

Your party’s candidates can have someone to film or photograph them voting if they have permission from the returning officer.

Candidates should contact us before the voting period to get permission.

If the returning officer gives candidates permission, they must agree to not:

  • disrupt the voting place with your filming or photography
  • photograph or film voters completing their ballot papers
  • give or conduct interviews in or near the voting place.

Complaints about election advertising

There are different agencies people can go to if they have concerns about an election or referendum advertisement.

Contact us about breaches of election or referendum advertising rules

The Commission is responsible for ensuring that the rules regarding transparency of promoter statements, authorisation of advertising and electoral finance rules are being complied with. You can complain to us about breaches of election advertising and the election day rules under the Electoral Act, referendum advertising rules under the Referendums Framework Act, and election programmes under the Broadcasting Act.

Post or email your complaint to us:

Electoral Commission
PO Box 3220
Wellington
Email enquiries@elections.govt.nz

If we believe the person or group has committed an offence, we’ll report the facts to the police. We can’t enforce laws or prosecute offenders.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority, the ASA and the Media Council all have roles when it comes to considering whether the content of campaign advertising, broadcasts and media activity meets the relevant standards they administer.

Contact the Broadcasting Standards Authority about broadcasting

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) oversees broadcasting on TV and radio.

Election programmes must follow the Election Programmes Code.

Election programmes on TV and radio, such as party and candidate advertisements, must follow the Election Programmes Code of Broadcasting Practice.

The BSA website has more information about the code, and how to complain under it:

www.bsa.govt.nz/broadcasting-standards/election-code/

Third-party programmes must follow broadcasting standards.

Third party programmes about elections and referendums must follow the relevant broadcasting standards for radio, free-to-air TV or pay TV.

If you think a programme has breached a standard, complain to the broadcaster first. If you can’t resolve your complaint, you can go to the BSA.

The BSA website has more information about the standards and how to complain:

www.bsa.govt.nz/complaints

Contact the Advertising Standards Authority about other election or referendum advertising

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) oversees advertising in all media other than party or candidate election programme broadcasts on TV and radio.

Referendum and election advertising must comply with the ASA Codes of Practice. The ASA website has more information about the codes and how to complain:

www.asa.co.nz/complaints

Contact the Media Council about editorial content

The New Zealand Media Council oversees its members, which include publications and news websites.

If you want to complain about editorial content, you must go to the publisher first. If you can’t resolve your complaint, you can go to the Council.

The Media Council website has more information about its members, and how to complain:

www.mediacouncil.org.nz

Contact local councils about election signs

If you have any questions or complaints about the placement of election signs, talk to the local council of the area the sign is in.

The Local Government New Zealand website can show you how to contact local councils:

www.lgnz.co.nz/nzs-local-government/new-zealands-councils/

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