Third Party handbook for the 2020 General Election

Your website or social media account

The exemption for personal political views online doesn’t apply if you’re using a website or social media to express political views on behalf of a group. 

The whole website or social media account is:

  • an election advertisement if any part of it encourages or persuades voters to vote or not vote for a party or candidate
  • a referendum advertisement if any part of it encourages or persuades voters to vote or not vote in a particular way in a referendum.

Even if you don’t pay to promote your 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 website or social media pages.

You need a promoter statement on your 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 expense limits.

You can make your website accessible

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

www.digital.govt.nz/standards-and-guidance/nz-government-web-standards/web-accessibility-standard-1-1 

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 advertisements

You 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 Alice Promoter, 111 Any Street, Auckland’ to ‘A Promoter, 111 Any St, AKLD’.

You can broadcast advertisements on TV and radio

You can broadcast election and referendum advertisements at any time, except for election day.

You still need to include a promoter statement

You must include a promoter statement in all your broadcast advertisements, whether they’re election or referendum advertisements.

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

You need the authority of the candidate or party you’re promoting

If your broadcast advertisement promotes a candidate or party, you need prior written authorisation from that candidate or party secretary.

Broadcast advertisements count as expenses

The cost of a broadcast advertisement will count towards your expense limits.

You can place an advertisement in a publication

You can place election or referendum advertisements in a publication, such as a newspaper, magazine, or journal. The publication can be electronic or printed.

Editorial versus advertorial content

If a publication, such as your local paper, asks you 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, your column or piece will count as an advertisement if you pay a publication to run it, for example as part of an advertising package.

Only the cost of the advertisement counts towards your expense limits

Only the cost of the advertisement itself counts towards your expense limits. You don’t need to account for the cost of the whole publication your advertisement is in.

You can put up signs, banners, posters

You can put up signs, banners and posters to promote a candidate, party, or 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 have 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 have larger signs.

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

You can only pay certain people to display election or referendum signs

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

The costs of election and referendum signs framing generally do not count as expenses

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

Mobile advertising counts towards your expense limits

The costs of mobile advertising, such as signage on campaign cars, go towards your expense limits. The cost of running a vehicle with signs on it isn’t an expense unless you’re paying to use the vehicle to display your advertisements.

You can pay staff to work on advertising

The cost of paying campaign staff only count towards your 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 costs of labour you get for free from a volunteer don’t count towards your expense limits. However, if a company donates its employees’ services to your election or referendum campaign, the employees’ time counts towards your expense limits.

You can give out items

You can give out items that promote a candidate, party or referendum option, such as t-shirts, bumper stickers, lapel badges and flags.

Count items you give out before the regulated period as expenses

If you give out any items before the regulated period starts, assume people will keep displaying them during the regulated period and count the cost of the items towards your expense limits.

People can’t display the items you give out on election day

Take care when giving out items to promote a candidate, party or referendum option. People could break the law if they display them either:

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

You can’t treat people

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 organisation’s own annual conference, where the audience is mainly organisation 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. 

You can survey, poll and canvass voters

Your 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, party, or referendum option, you’ll need to follow advertising rules.

For example, if your survey asks leading questions that promote a candidate or 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 or referendum advertisement.

If your survey, opinion poll or telephone canvassing is an election or referendum advertisement, any costs will go towards your 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 expense limits. However, the costs of any leaflets you hand out, for example, would be expense items if they promote a candidate or party or referendum option.

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