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Frequently Asked Questions - Electoral Finance Reform

Frequently asked questions - review of electoral finance

THE REVIEW

What is electoral finance reform about?

How did the reform of the electoral finance regime come about?

What are the new electoral finance rules?

Why does the new Act only reform some areas of electoral finance law?

What were the main stages of the reform?

Why is the electoral finance regime important?

Who was consulted on the development of the new electoral finance regime?

What submissions were received on the reform proposals?

REGULATED PERIOD

Has the regulated campaign period changed under the new electoral finance regime? Why?

What will the regulated period be from 1 January 2011?

ELECTION ADVERTISING

What is an ‘election advertisement’ under the new electoral finance regime?

Why is there an exemption for publishing personal political views on the internet?

Why are overseas election advertisements covered by the new regime?

What authorisation is required for an election advertisement encouraging voters to vote for a political party?

Who can authorise a candidate advertisement?

What if I am unsure whether my advertisement is an election advertisement or not?

Why are draft advertisements, supporting materials, and the Electoral Commission’s opinions on draft advertisements not subject to the Official Information Act 1982 or the Privacy Act 1993 until writ day?

Can advertisements, supporting materials, and the Electoral Commission’s opinions on draft advertisements still be released to the Police?

What aspects of the relationship between the Electoral Act 1993 and Parliamentary Service legislation needed to be addressed?

How does the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 clarify the relationship between the Electoral Act 1993 and the Parliamentary Service Act 2000?

PROMOTERS

When is a promoter statement required?  What information needs to be included in the promoter statement?

What are promoters, registered promoters and unregistered promoters?

Why does the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 distinguish between registered promoters and unregistered promoters?

Why can’t overseas individuals/organisations become registered promoters?

What information is required for an application to be a registered promoter?

What obligations are there on registered promoters?

Why are there expenditure limits on registered promoters and what are the limits?

What are the election expenses of registered promoters?

Why do registered promoters need to file expense returns when they spend over $100,000 (incl GST)?

Do registered promoter expense returns need to be audited?

What information about registered promoters will be available to the public?

What obligations are there on unregistered promoters?

CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURE

What are campaign expenditure limits?

What are candidate and party election expenses?

What are ‘advertising expenses’ under the new electoral finance regime?

What are the new candidate and party expenditure limits, and why are they increasing?

DONATIONS

What are candidate donations?

What are party donations?

Why are goods and services donated to candidates that are worth less than $300, and goods and services donated to political parties that are worth less than $1,500, no longer counted as donations?

What is the maximum amount that can be donated to a candidate or political party?

What donation information do candidates and political parties need to disclose?

Why do political parties not need to report the number and total value of donations they receive of $1,500 or less (other than anonymous or overseas donations)?

Why do both the number and the total value of all party donations between $1,500 and $15,000, and overseas and anonymous donations under $1,500, need to be disclosed?

Why do parties no longer need to file an expense return for donations of less than $30,000?

Has there been any change to the broadcast allocation as part of the electoral finance reform?

ADVANCE VOTING

What is advance voting?

Who can vote in advance?

When can people vote in advance?

Why do people vote in advance?   

How does the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 change the advance voting process?   

Why is Parliament making it easier to vote in advance? 

How many people vote in advance?

Will the amendment undermine the significance of election day?

OFFENCES AND PENALTIES

Why has the Electoral Commission been given a discretion not to inform the Police of offences that are inconsequential?

Will the discretion affect the Police’s decision to prosecute cases which are referred to them by someone other than the Electoral Commission?

What are the existing offences and penalties in the Electoral Act 1993?

What are the new or amended offences and penalties in the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010?

TIMING

When does the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 come into force?

What do the changes in the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 mean for the 2011 General Election?

What happens if a general election or by-election is announced in late 2010?

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FURTHER INFORMATION

More information about how elections are run in New Zealand can be found at the Electoral Commission's website: www.elections.org.nz.

THE REVIEW

What is electoral finance reform about?

The electoral finance regime covers electoral campaigning and political party funding.

Electoral campaigning refers to any campaigning for or against a candidate or a registered political party for election. It includes campaigning by people or organisations that are not candidates or political parties, but who would like to influence the outcome of an election, for example, special interest or lobby groups.

Political party funding is about how candidates and political parties fund their election campaigns and related activities. This includes donations made to political parties.

How did the reform of the electoral finance regime come about?

The Electoral Finance Act 2007 was repealed in February 2009 and an interim electoral finance regime put in place. The purpose of the reform was to develop new electoral finance legislation to replace the interim regime.

Historically, electoral law reform has been the subject of broad cross-party and public consensus. This reform has involved all parliamentary parties and the public so that a durable electoral finance regime can be put in place before the 2011 General Election.

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What are the new electoral finance rules?

The changes to the Electoral Act 1993 by the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 will ensure greater certainty and transparency in the conduct of the electoral process. 

The key changes include:

  • modernising the definition of 'election advertisement' so it is media neutral and has clear exceptions
  • adding a new definition of ‘regulated period’ to avoid retrospective application and provide more certainty about when the regulated period will commence
  • clarifying that Parliamentary Service funding is not available for an election advertisement published during the regulated period
  • increasing the amount of money that parties and candidates can spend on election campaigning
  • establishing a regime for third party promoters (people other than candidates and political parties):
    • requiring registration for those who intend to spend more than $12,000 (GST incl) on election advertising during the regulated period
    • requiring expense returns from those who spend more than $100,000 (GST incl) on election advertising during the regulated period
    • establishing a maximum expenditure limit of $300,000 (GST incl) on election advertising during the regulated period
  • requiring more transparency about the identity of promoters on election advertisements and stricter rules about who can authorise election advertisements 
  • increasing the thresholds of candidate and party donations above which the identity of the donor must be publicly disclosed
  • requiring parties to disclose the number and total amount of smaller donations in bands
  • removing the requirement for advance voters to make a written declaration establishing their eligibility to vote in their electorate before election day.

Why does the new Act only reform some areas of electoral finance law?

Electoral finance law is central to New Zealand’s democratic system and change needs to be based on a broad consensus. The proposals in the reform package were chosen because there was a clear public and political consensus supporting them.

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What were the main stages of the reform?

An Issues Paper was released for public consultation on 22 May 2009. The purpose of the Issues Paper was to generate public discussion on broad issues and gather ideas for ways to address these issues. The Issues Paper was not Government policy and was designed to ask questions, not provide answers.

A Proposal Document was released for public comment on 28 September 2009.  The Proposal Document’s purpose was to seek public input on Government proposals for new legislation.  The Proposal Document took into account the views provided by the public on the Issues Paper.

In April 2010 the Minister of Justice, Hon Simon Power, introduced the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill to the House of Representatives.  The Bill was referred to the Electoral Legislation Committee which received public submissions on the Bill and then reported back to the House of Representatives with recommendations.

The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 received its third reading on 16 December 2010 and came into force on 1 January 2011.  The Act amends several pieces of legislation, in particular the Electoral Act 1993. 

Why is the electoral finance regime important?

Rules around electoral campaigning and political party funding are needed to maintain confidence in the outcome of parliamentary elections and the integrity of our democratic system.

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Who was consulted on the development of the new electoral finance regime?

All parliamentary parties and the public were consulted at each stage of the reform process.

All parliamentary parties were represented on the Electoral Legislation Committee that was set up to consider the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill. The Committee took public submitters’ views into account as part of their report to Parliament.

What submissions were received on the reform proposals?

Copies of the submissions received on the Bill are available from www.parliament.nz.

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REGULATED PERIOD

Has the regulated campaign period changed under the new electoral finance regime? Why?

Yes.  Previously under the Electoral Act 1993 the regulated period commenced three months prior to polling day, regardless of when the election date was announced.  If the election date was announced less than three months before polling day the regulated period was essentially backdated to start three months before polling day.

The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 includes a new definition of ‘regulated period’ that is structured to have three possible triggers.

The changes to the regulated campaign period avoid the potential for retrospectivity, and provide certainty and clarity for all involved in the electoral process.  The new definition will most often result in a regulated period of approximately three months.

What will the regulated period be from 1 January 2011?

The new regulated period has three possible triggers.  Which trigger will apply depends upon when the Prime Minister announces the election date.

The default day will be 2 years and 9 months from the previous election day.  This is the backstop date for the regulated period to commence if the Prime Minister has not already announced the election date beforehand.

If, before the default day, the Prime Minister announces the election date, the regulated period will commence on the later of:

  • three calendar months before election day, or
  • the day after the Prime Minister’s announcement of the election date.

In all cases the regulated period ends on the close of the day before polling day.

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ELECTION ADVERTISING

What is an ‘election advertisement’ under the new electoral finance regime?

An election advertisement is an advertisement in any form (including newspaper, television, radio, internet and pamphlets) that encourages or persuades voters to vote or not to vote for a candidate or political party (whether or not the name of the candidate or political party is stated in the advertisement).

An election advertisement does not include:

  • public information published by the Electoral Commission, the Chief Registrar of Electors, or any other agency with official responsibilities in relation to elections
  • certain contact information published by a member of Parliament before and during the regulated period, in the course of carrying out their role as a member of Parliament, and funded by Parliamentary Service
  • editorial content of a periodical (newspaper, magazine or journal), radio or television programme or news media website
  • broadcasts of Parliamentary proceedings
  • personal political views published on the internet by an individual who does not make or receive a payment in respect of the publication of those views.

Why is there an exemption for publishing personal political views on the internet?

The exchange of personal political views on the internet, such as through blog websites, is now part of the way that New Zealanders converse and debate political ideas.  The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 treats conversations over the internet in the same way as face to face personal conversations.

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Why are overseas election advertisements covered by the new regime?

Generally, legislation does not apply outside New Zealand.  However, section 7 of the Crimes Act 1961 states that where any act or omission that is part of an offence occurs within New Zealand, then the whole offence is deemed to have been committed in New Zealand.  

Instead of relying on the Crimes Act, to avoid any doubt, the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 clearly sets out how it applies where any part of an act or omission occurs outside New Zealand.  Election advertisements which are:

  • published in New Zealand by an overseas promoter, or
  • published overseas by a promoter who is in New Zealand

are caught by the requirements of the Electoral Act 1993. 

What authorisation is required for an election advertisement encouraging voters to vote for a political party?

If someone other than the party secretary promotes a party advertisement they must get written authorisation in advance from the party secretary for the political party promoted in the advertisement.

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Who can authorise a candidate advertisement?

If someone other than the candidate(s) themselves promotes a candidate advertisement they must get written authorisation in advance from all candidates promoted in the advertisement.

What if I am unsure whether my advertisement is an election advertisement or not?

Any person can request the Electoral Commission to provide advice on whether, in the Electoral Commission’s opinion, a draft advertisement is an election advertisement.

Why are draft advertisements, supporting materials, and the Electoral Commission’s opinions on draft advertisements not subject to the Official Information Act 1982 or the Privacy Act 1993 until the return of the writ?

People will be able to submit their draft advertisements to the Electoral Commission and receive an advisory opinion from the Commission as to whether the advertisement is an election advertisement.  The advertisement, any supporting material and the advice of the Electoral Commission will be confidential until the day after the return of the writ.  The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 clarifies that the confidentiality of the information also applies where requests are made for the information under the Official Information Act 1982 and the Privacy Act 1993.  

Confidentiality will ensure that people are not deterred from seeking the Electoral Commission’s opinion on draft advertisements because they are concerned that their campaign strategies might be released prematurely, or that draft advertisements which are not published might be used against them by others. 

The Police will, however, be able to access the confidential information in the course of investigating a related electoral offence.

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Can advertisements, supporting materials, and the Electoral Commission’s opinions on draft advertisements still be released to the Police?

Yes, the Electoral Commission can release this information upon request or on its own initiative to the New Zealand Police to assist with the investigation or prosecution of any offence or suspected offence related to an election.

What aspects of the relationship between the Electoral Act 1993 and Parliamentary Service legislation needed to be addressed?

The Government stated in February 2010 that it would align the definitions of ‘electioneering’ in the Parliamentary Service Act 2000 and ‘election advertising’ in the Electoral Act 1993 to make it clear that Parliamentary Service funding cannot be used to purchase election advertising during the regulated period before an election.

How does the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 clarify the relationship between the Electoral Act 1993 and the Parliamentary Service Act 2000?

The Parliamentary Service Amendment Act 2010 clarifies that Parliamentary Service funding is not available for an election advertisement (as defined in the Electoral Act 1993) published during the regulated period.  The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 sets out the new definition of ‘election advertisement’ and clarifies that if a member of Parliament continues to publish their ‘contact information’ (as defined in the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010) before and during the regulated period, in the ordinary course of working as a member of Parliament that is not an ‘election advertisement’.

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PROMOTERS

When is a promoter statement required?  What information needs to be included in the promoter statement?

A promoter statement must be included on any election advertisement at any time (not just during the regulated period).  If the advertisement is visual, the promoter statement must be clearly displayed.  If the advertisement is audible, the promoter statement must be at least as loud as the rest of the advertisement.
The promoter statement must state the name and address of the promoter.  The address can be the full street address where the promoter usually lives, or the full street address of any other place where the promoter can usually be contacted during business hours.
For an unregistered promoter, if the promoter is a body corporate or unincorporated body, the promoter statement must also include the name of a member of the body who is an authorised representative for the purposes of the election advertisement.

What are promoters, registered promoters and unregistered promoters?

A promoter is the person who initiates or instigates an election advertisement that is published.

A registered promoter is a person (other than a constituency candidate, a list candidate, a political party, an overseas person, or a person involved in the affairs of a political party or a candidate’s campaign) who has registered with the Electoral Commission.  Promoters must be registered if they intend to spend more than $12,000 on election advertisements published during the regulated period.

An unregistered promoter is a promoter who is not a registered promoter, a constituency candidate, a list candidate, a political party, or a person involved in the affairs of a political party or a candidate’s campaign. An unregistered promoter cannot spend more than $12,000 on election advertising during the regulated period.

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Why does the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 distinguish between registered promoters and unregistered promoters?

The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 promotes a balance of freedom of expression and transparency. 

The Act distinguishes between registered and unregistered promoters to reflect the increased obligations on registered promoters.  If a promoter wishes to spend more than $12,000 during the regulated period they must register with the Electoral Commission.  Registered promoters are subject to stricter disclosure requirements to ensure greater transparency of those spending large amounts on election advertising.

Why can’t overseas individuals/organisations become registered promoters?

It is important that debate and discussion by New Zealanders on New Zealand elections is not “drowned out” by overseas individuals and organisations.  The Royal Commission in its 1986 Report on the Electoral System noted that although it is not legitimate for wealthy and powerful overseas interests to intervene in New Zealand’s electoral process, it is not justifiable to prohibit spending by overseas individuals.  Accordingly, the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 states that overseas persons are restricted to spending no more than $12,000 on election advertising.

For the purposes of the expenses and donations regime an ‘overseas person’ is defined in the Electoral Act 1993 as:

  • an individual who lives outside New Zealand and is not a New Zealand citizen or registered as an elector on the New Zealand electoral roll, or
  • a body corporate incorporated outside New Zealand, or
  • an unincorporated body that has its head office or principal place of business outside New Zealand.

Overseas individuals who are New Zealand citizens or are on the electoral roll, and overseas organisations incorporated in New Zealand or with a principal place of business in New Zealand, are still eligible to be registered promoters.

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What information is required for an application to be a registered promoter?

The application must be in the form required by the Electoral Commission.

If the promoter is an individual, the application must be made by the promoter, and must set out the name and contact details of the individual.

If the promoter is a company, the application must be made by a person authorised by the board of directors.  The application must set out the name and contact details of the promoter company, the name and contact details of the authorised person and evidence of the authorised individual’s authority to register the company.
If the promoter is not an individual or a company, the application must be made by a representative authorised by the promoter.  The application must set out the name and contact details of the promoter and the authorised representative, the names of the persons in a position similar to that of a director (or the names of the trustees if the promoter is a trust) and evidence of the authorised representative’s authority to register the promoter.

What obligations are there on registered promoters?

Registered promoters need to:

  • make sure there is a promoter statement on any election advertisements they instigate or initiate
  • give written notice to the Electoral Commission within 10 working days if any of the information they provided on their application for registration changes
  • file an election expense return within 70 working days of polling day if they spend more than $100,000 (incl GST) on election advertising during the regulated period

  • maintain records, documents and accounts necessary to verify their expenses until the prosecution period expires
  • pay claims for election expenses within 40 working days of the declaration of the election result (as long as the claim was sent to the registered promoter within 20 working days of declaration of the election result).

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Why are there expenditure limits on registered promoters and what are the limits?

Registered promoters cannot spend more than $300,000 (incl GST) on election expenses during the regulated period.  This limit will be adjusted annually after the 2011 General Election in accordance with changes in the Consumer Price Index (which reflects changes in the cost of living).

The issue of expenditure limits involves balancing the protection of freedom of expression with ensuring New Zealanders have equal opportunity to participate in debate on electoral issues.  The majority of the Electoral Legislation Committee considered that expenditure limits on third party advertising, set at an appropriate level, would achieve the appropriate balance of interests.

What are the election expenses of registered promoters?

A registered promoter’s election expenses are the advertising expenses for election advertisements promoted by the registered promoter that are published, or continue to be published, during the regulated period.
These election expenses include the full expenses of an advertisement that is both an election advertisement and a referendum advertisement (as defined in section 30 of the Electoral Referendum Act 2010).

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Why do registered promoters need to file expense returns when they spend over $100,000 (incl GST)?

This requirement allows the Electoral Commission to monitor whether registered promoters are complying with the registered promoter expenditure limit.

Do registered promoter expense returns need to be audited?

No.  However, if the Electoral Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that a registered promoter’s expense return may contain false or misleading information the Commission may require the registered promoter to obtain an auditor’s report on the return at the promoter’s own expense.

What information about registered promoters will be available to the public?

The Electoral Commission will establish and maintain a register of registered promoters setting out the names and addresses of registered promoters, and the names of any authorised representatives of the promoters.

Any person is entitled to search the register for the purposes of checking whether someone is a registered promoter, and if so, the address of that person, and whether an election advertisement is promoted by a registered promoter.

The Electoral Commission will also publish copies of registered promoter expense returns, and make these available for public inspection.

What obligations are there on unregistered promoters?

Unregistered promoters need to make sure there is a promoter statement on any election advertisements they instigate or initiate, and they must keep records of their election advertisement expenses for three years after the election date.

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CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURE

What are campaign expenditure limits?

Campaign expenditure limits are the maximum amount each constituency candidate and each political party can spend on election expenses during the regulated period.

What are candidate and party election expenses?

A candidate’s election expenses are the advertising expenses for all candidate advertisements, promoted or authorised by the candidate, that are published or continue to be published during the regulated period.

A political party’s election expenses are the advertising expenses for all party advertisements, promoted or authorised by the party secretary, that are published or continue to be published during the regulated period.  A party’s election expenses do not include any time or money provided to the party under the Broadcasting Act 1980.

What are ‘advertising expenses’ under the new electoral finance regime?

‘Advertising expenses’ include:

  • the cost of preparation, design, composition, printing, postage, and publication of the advertisement
  • the market value of any material used for the advertisement.

‘Advertising expenses’ do not include the cost of:

  • surveys or public opinion polls
  • non-commercial frameworks that support an advertising hoarding
  • free or volunteer labour
  • replacing damaged advertising materials
  • the running costs of a vehicle used to display an advertisement (if the vehicle is not hired specifically for that purpose).

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What are the new candidate and party expenditure limits, and why are they increasing?

The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill, as introduced, amended the candidate and party expenditure limits based on increases in the Consumer Price Index since the 2008 General Election.

The Electoral Legislation Committee recommended that:

  • the candidate expenditure limit, and the contested electoral district component of the party expenditure limit, should increase from $20,300 (incl GST) to $25,000 (incl GST) per electorate
  • the candidate expenditure limit for a by-election should increase from $40,600 (incl GST) to $50,000 (incl GST).

The Committee recommended the increases to align the expenditure limits with current costs. 

The Committee also recommended increasing the party component of the party expenditure limit from $1,015,000 (incl GST) to $1,032,000 (incl GST) to reflect the movement in the Consumer Price Index since the December 2009 quarter when the figure was last adjusted in the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill.

The candidate expenditure limit, and the contested electoral district component of the party expenditure limit, will be adjusted annually from July 2012 to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index.  The party component of the party expenditure limit will be adjusted annually from July 2011 to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index.

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DONATIONS

What are candidate donations?

A ‘candidate donation’ is a donation of money, and goods or services worth more than $300, made to a candidate for use in their electoral campaign. ‘Candidate donation’ includes:

  • the difference between the price paid and the actual value of goods or services that are provided to a candidate at a discount
  • the difference between the price paid and the actual value of goods and services that are provided by a candidate for more than the reasonable market value
  • the value to the candidate of favourable credit terms.

‘Candidate donation’ does not include volunteer labour.

What are party donations?

A ‘party donation’ is a donation of money, and goods or services worth more than $1,500, made to a political party for use in its electoral campaign. ‘Party donation’ includes:

  • the difference between the price paid and the actual value of goods or services that are provided to a political party at a discount
  • the difference between the price paid and the actual value of goods and services that are provided by a political party for more than the reasonable market value
  • the value to the political party of favourable credit terms.

‘Party donation’ does not include volunteer labour.

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Why are goods and services donated to candidates that are worth less than $300, and goods and services donated to political parties that are worth less than $1,500, no longer counted as donations?

The current definitions of ‘candidate donation’ and ‘party donation’ in the Electoral Act include de minimis thresholds of $200 and $1,000 respectively.  These de minimis thresholds currently only apply to goods and services provided under a contract or arrangement where the reasonable market value of the goods or services is less than $200 and $1,000 respectively.

The Electoral Legislation Committee recommended amending the definitions to include de minimis thresholds for all goods and services.  A majority of the Committee also recommended increasing the thresholds to $300 for ‘candidate donation’ and $1,500 for ‘party donation’. 

The exclusion is limited to donations of goods and services, and does not include donations of cash.

What is the maximum amount that can be donated to a candidate or political party?

Generally there is no limit on the size of donations to a candidate or political party, with two important exceptions.

Candidates and political parties cannot keep donations of more than $1,500 from an overseas person. If they receive such a donation the amount in excess of $1,500 must be returned to the donor if possible, or paid to the Electoral Commission.

Candidates and political parties cannot keep donations of more than $1,500 from an anonymous source. If they receive such a donation the amount in excess of $1,500 must be paid to the Electoral Commission.

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What donation information do candidates and political parties need to disclose?

Candidates must file a donations return within 70 working days of election day setting out the following information for donations received since the previous election:

  • the date and amount for any anonymous candidate donations of more than $1,500, and the amount paid to the Electoral Commission
  • the date and amount for any candidate donations from an overseas person (including the total value of all donations from a single donor, and any donation made up of contributions from many overseas persons) of more than $1,500, and the amount returned to the donor or paid to the Electoral Commission
  • the names, addresses, amounts and dates for every other candidate donation (including the total value of all donations from a single donor, and any donation made up of contributions from many people) of more than $1,500.

Party secretaries must file a donations return by 31 April each year setting out the following information for donations received in the previous calendar year:

  • the date and amount for  any anonymous party donations of more than $1,500, and the amount paid to the Electoral Commission
  • the date and amount for any party donations from an overseas person (including the total value of all donations from a single donor, and any donation made up of contributions from many overseas persons) of more than $1,500, and the amount returned to the donor or paid to the Electoral Commission
  • the date and amount for any party donations received confidentially by the Electoral Commission and transmitted to the party
  • the names, addresses, amounts and dates for every other party donation (including the total value of all donations from a single donor, and any donation made up of contributions from many people) of more than $15,000
  • the number and total value of anonymous party donations of $1,500 or less
  • the number and total value of overseas party donations of $1,500 or less
  • the number and total value of all party donations of between $1,500 and $5,000
  • the number and total value of all party donations of between $5,000 and $15,000.

Why do political parties not need to report the number and total value of donations they receive of $1,500 or less (other than anonymous or overseas donations)?

When the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill was introduced it proposed that political parties disclose the total value of party donations of $1,000 or less, including overseas and anonymous donations.

The Electoral Legislation Committee recommended that political parties not be required to disclose the number and total value of party donations, other than anonymous or overseas donations, of $1,500 or less. 

Political parties will still need to keep record of these donations in case the total value of all the donations from a single donor, when they are added together, triggers disclosure requirements under other sections of the Electoral Act 1993.

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Why do both the number and the total value of all party donations between $1,500 and $15,000, and overseas and anonymous donations under $1,500, need to be disclosed?

Submitters on the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill raised concerns that if only the number of donations, or only the total value of donations, was disclosed this may not give an accurate picture of the donations that candidates and parties receive. Having access to more information about how many donations were made within each band, as well as the total value, provides additional transparency around donations.

Why do parties no longer need to file an expense return for donations of less than $30,000?

The Electoral Act 1993 previously required party secretaries to file a return with the Electoral Commission within 10 working days for every party donation they receive (including the total donations received from a single donor) that exceeds $20,000.  The majority of the Electoral Legislation Committee recommended that this amount increase to $30,000 in line with increases to other disclosure thresholds.

Political parties will still need to disclose the following information in their annual returns:

  • the details of all donations more than $15,000
  • the number and total value of all donations between $1,500 and $15,000
  • the number and total value of all anonymous and overseas donations $1,500 or less.

Has there been any change to the broadcast allocation as part of the electoral finance reform?

No.  The consultation process for the electoral finance Review sought feedback on three options for reform of the broadcasting funding regime in Part 6 of the Broadcasting Act 1989:

  1. Retention of status quo – retain the current broadcasting allocation regime.
  2. Moderate reform – allow broadcasting funds to be spent in any media, not just radio and television.
  3. Significant reform – allow broadcasting funds to be spent for any purpose, not just for election advertising.

Submissions on the consultation process did not demonstrate the broad-based consensus necessary for reform.

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ADVANCE VOTING

What is advance voting?

Advance voting is a service provided for voters who need to vote before election day.

Who can vote in advance?

Any eligible voter can cast an advance vote if, for example, they will be away from their electorate on election day or cannot get to a polling place on election day.

When can people vote in advance?

Advance voting opens from the Wednesday 17 days before election day. Advance voting closes on the Friday before election day.

Why do people vote in advance?

Voters may wish to vote in advance because:

  • of illness, infirmity, pregnancy, or recent childbirth; or
  • they have a religious objection to attending a polling place on election day; or
  • attending a polling place in their electorate would cause hardship or serious inconvenience.

New Zealanders regularly travel around the country and overseas for holidays, events and sporting fixtures. An increasing number of voters work or have other important commitments on election day.  Older voters or those with a medical condition or a disability may find it easier to vote on weekdays when parking or public transport is more likely to be available.

How does the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 change the advance voting process?

The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 removes the previous requirement for advance voters to complete a statutory declaration if they vote in person at an advance voting place and their name is on the printed roll being used at that advance voting place.
Read the Cabinet decision on advance voting (March 2010) [PDF]

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Why is Parliament making it easier to vote in advance?

The move to make it easier to vote in advance responds to elector needs.  Electors vote in advance because they find it difficult to get to a polling place on election day for any number of reasons.  The previous requirement to establish a ground of eligibility and sign a statutory declaration imposed an unnecessary burden on advance voters and sometimes caused queuing in the busy days before election day.  Aside from the inconvenience to voters, queuing may mean advance voters have to return to vote at another time, or potentially decide not to vote as a result. The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 aims to meet voters’ expectations and improve their voting experience.

How many people vote in advance?

The number of advance votes has increased over the last three general elections. In the 2002 General Election, 6.45 per cent of voters voted in advance. That percentage increased to 8.59 per cent in 2005, and 11.24 per cent (over quarter of a million voters) in 2008.

Will the amendment undermine the significance of election day?

Election day is expected to remain the focus of voting for the foreseeable future given the community spirit it engenders. Many New Zealanders prefer to wait until the end of campaigning to make their vote and will continue to find it convenient, enjoyable and appropriate to vote on election day.

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OFFENCES AND PENALTIES

Why has the Electoral Commission been given a discretion not to inform the Police of offences that are inconsequential?

The advantage of the discretion is that the Electoral Commission can give someone who has breached the Electoral Act 1993 an opportunity to remedy the breach, rather than automatically referring all offences to the Police. Furthermore, this will allow the Police to better target their resources on investigating those files that the Electoral Commission considers to be appropriate to report.

Will the discretion affect the Police’s decision to prosecute cases which are referred to them by someone other than the Electoral Commission?

No. The discretion does not replace the Police’s prosecution decision. The Police will still have the discretion to prosecute matters referred to them by someone other than the Electoral Commission, including matters that the Electoral Commission has decided not to refer. It is not the Electoral Commission’s role to assess whether prosecution is likely to result in a conviction. That is a matter for the Police.

What are the existing offences and penalties in the Electoral Act 1993?

The Electoral Act contains offence provisions, which are classified as corrupt practices, illegal practices or summary offences.  The maximum penalty for a corrupt practice in breach of the election expense and donation provisions is:

  • two years imprisonment, and/or
  • a $100,000 fine for a constituency candidate, a party secretary, or a registered promoter, and a $40,000 fine for all others. 

The maximum penalty for an illegal practice in breach of the election expense and donation provisions is:

  • a $40,000 fine for a constituency candidate, a party secretary or registered promoter, or
  • a $40,000 fine for offence under new sections 204B and 204E for a constituency candidate, a party secretary, registered promoter and unregistered promoter
  • a $10,000 fine for all others.

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What are the new or amended offences and penalties in the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010?

OFFENCE


PENALTY

Election advertisements

Illegal practice

Wilfully promoting an election advertisement without being entitled to do so.

 

Maximum $40,000 fine for a registered or unregistered promoter, constituency candidate, or party secretary.

Maximum $10,000 fine for all others.

Wilfully failing to comply with the requirements for a promoter statement.

Maximum $40,000 fine for a registered promoter, constituency candidate, or party secretary. 

Maximum $10,000 fine for all others.

Wilfully publishing, or causing/permitting a candidate or party advertisement to be published, which has not been authorised in writing.

Third party promoter registration

Illegal practice

For the purpose of circumventing the registration threshold:

·         wilfully entering into an arrangement or understanding

·         a body corporate or unincorporated body wilfully encouraging its members to take any action

·         wilfully incorporating or forming two or more bodies corporate or unincorporated bodies.

 

 

Maximum $40,000 fine for a registered or unregistered promoter, constituency candidate, or party secretary.

Maximum $10,000 fine for all others.

Election expenses

Summary offence

Registered promoter: failing to file an expense return.

Maximum $40,000 fine.

Unregistered or registered promoter: failing, without reasonable excuse, to retain records of election expenses.

Illegal practice

Incurring election expense in relation to a candidate, party, or registered promoter election advertisement without authorisation.

Maximum $40,000 fine for a registered promoter, constituency candidate or party secretary.

Maximum $10,000 fine for all others.

Registered or unregistered promoter: paying election expenses in excess of $300,000 (incl GST).

Registered promoter: making payment for election expenses more than 40 working days after election results are declared.

Registered promoter: filing a false expense return.

 

 

Corrupt practice

Wilfully incurring election expense in relation to a candidate, party, or registered promoter election advertisement without authorisation.

Maximum 2 years imprisonment and/or $100,000 fine for a registered promoter, constituency candidate or party secretary.

Maximum $40,000 fine for all others.

 

 

Entering into an arrangement or understanding for the purposes of circumventing the candidate, party, or registered promoter election expenditure limits.

Registered or unregistered promoter: knowingly paying election expenses in excess of $300,000 (incl GST).

 

Registered promoter: knowingly filing a false expense return.

 

Donations

Corrupt practice

Being actively involved in directing or procuring two or more bodies corporate to split a party donation between them in order to avoid disclosure of the total amount of the donation.

Maximum 2 years imprisonment and/or $100,000 fine for a registered promoter, constituency candidate or party secretary.

Maximum $40,000 fine for all others.

TIMING

When does the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 come into force?

The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 is in force from 1 January 2011. 

The new rules on donations will not apply to donations received before 1 January 2011.

What do the changes in the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 mean for the 2011 General Election?

The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 has a commencement date of 1 January 2011.  The Act’s amendments to the Electoral Act 1993 (and other Acts and regulations) will apply to the 2011 General Election unless the transitional election provisions apply.

What happens if a general election or by-election is announced in late 2010?

The Act contains transitional election provisions that clarify what will happen if a general election or by-election is announced in late 2010 with the polling date to be in early 2011. The transitional election provisions provide that:

  • if a general election is announced in 2010, with a polling date that is between 1 January 2011 and 31 March 2011, then the current rules under the Electoral Act 1993 will apply to that general election.
  • if the Speaker publishes a gazette notice of a vacancy in an electoral district in 2010, and the polling date for the by-election is in 2011, then the current rules under the Electoral Act 1993 will apply to that by-election.
  • for all other situations where there is to be a general election or by-election in 2011 or later, the new rules under the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act 2010 will apply.

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