Media Handbook for the 2020 General Election

Previous page Next page

There are restrictions on what people can do once voting starts on Saturday 3 October.

It's a criminal offence to do anything that could be seen as encouraging or persuading voters:It's a criminal offence to do anything that could be seen as encouraging or persuading 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, party names, referendum options, emblems, slogans or logos. The full lists of restricted activities are in sections 197 and 197A of the Electoral Act.

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

Don’t publish or broadcast anything that could influence voters

On election day, you can’t publish or broadcast anything that is likely to influence voters until after voting closes at 7pm. If you publish a newspaper after 6pm on the day before election day, it counts as publishing it on election day.

You could still be seen as encouraging or persuading voters even if:

  • your item is balanced (for example, it looks at the pros and cons of an issue that featured in the election campaign)
  • you do not mention the name of a party or candidate or referendum option
  • you give all candidates, parties or referendum options equal coverage.

For example, you would break election day rules if you ran an item that:

  • showed a candidate at an election-related demonstration
  • commented on a candidate’s likelihood of winning an electorate seat
  • commented on each party’s likelihood of passing the 5 percent party vote threshold
  • commented on the likely outcome of a referendum.

You can broadcast and publish news about an election

You can broadcast and publish news about an election if it's unlikely to be seen as encouraging or persuading voters. For example, your news item may:

  • note that the election and referendums are taking place
  • note when results will be available
  • mention party names, candidate names or referendum questions
  • have footage or pictures of party leaders casting their votes.

Take care with any item that features candidates or parties. If you have any doubts, delay publishing or broadcasting until voting closes at 7pm.

Also make sure you don’t schedule programmes that would break election day rules to repeat on election day.

You can get permission to film and photograph at voting places

You can film and take photos for news coverage at a voting place, if you have permission from the returning officer.

Contact us before the voting period to get permission.If the returning officer gives you permission, you must agree to not:

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

When you’re near a voting place on election day or within 10 metres of an advance voting place, you can’t say or do anything that could influence voters. Exercise restraint to avoid complaints.

Be careful what you post 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 personal political views on election day can also break the law.

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

  • You published the material before election day.
  • The material is only available to people who voluntarily access it.
  • You 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 websites and social media on election day. This will stop users from posting new election and referendum-related material.

You can’t deliver election or referendum material on election day

You can’t deliver election or referendum material through the post or directly to mailboxes 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. 

Previous page Next page
Back to top