In March the ODT published a photo of Green MP Metiria Turei completing her third triathlon in a bathing suit emblazoned with Green Party logos. The accompanying story quoted her saying she chose not to swim in a wetsuit, preferring a swimsuit with logos because “it’s always good to get your message out there”.
I wrote a letter to the editor pointing out that the suit ought to have had authorisation including the name and residential address of the Party financial agent and the cost would have to be counted in the election return.
She responded that logos didn’t count so I emailed the Electoral Commission recounting the exchange and asking for an opinion. The reply from Helena Catt said it wasn’t clear that a logo by itself met the definition of an election advertisement.
As the commission was then considering whether a Labour logo on a balloon met the definition I asked her to reconsider the issue. When I hadn’t had a reply by the end of April I resent the email. The response said when the commission considered the balloon they would consider all instances of logos which had been sent to them.
The Herald reports today the commission members are divided over whether logos are advertisements under the EFA.
“… we have not yet received Crown Law opinion on the relationship between logos and election advertisements,” Dr Catt said.
“We are aware that this is a pressing issue but it is not an easy issue so we have to work through differing views.”
I’d have thought if it was used to get “your message out there” it would be, in the words of the Act, “any form of words or graphics or both that can reasonably be regarded encouraging or persuading voters to do either or both of the following: a) to vote for the party (whether or not the name of the party is stated) … Why else would they do it? But it obviously isn’t that simple.
…Dr Catt said while it was desirable that the Chief Electoral Office, which regulates candidates’ election advertising, and the Electoral Commission, which regulates parties’ advertising, held the same view about logos, it was possible that they could differ.
As David Farrar points out this is another victory for the law of common sense.
The trouble is common sense won’t be a defence for anyone who breeches the EFA so until a decision is made candidates and parties must take a very precautionary appraoch to the use of a logo on anything.