It’s not Helen but Linda Clark who, with Chapman Tripp colleague Andy Nicholls, delivers a blistering attack on the Electoral Finance Act in this week’s Listener. The preview is here but the full story won’t be on-line for a couple of weeks.
The Listener does this to encourage us to buy a copy of the magazine and I’m not going to interfere with that so will resist the temptation to copy the whole piece. Instead here’s a taste of what they say:
An Act rushed through late last year is threatening our right to really know who we will be voting for – even our politicians are playing a waiting game, and it needs to be fixed now.
…The EFA’s dampening effect on the current election campaign is so serious, it is anti-democratic.
Though National has said, if elected, it will repeal the EFA, it needs to be fixed now if this campaign is to be a fair contest. Voters should be able to see for themselves what and who is up for election and not just in a flurry at the last minute.
… parties … are holding back their candidates from campaiging and robbing voters of the opportunity to be informed.
… election advertising … commits political parties to key promises… And in the contests for electorates, which these days are given scant media coverage, it helps voters identify one candidate over another.
People don’t even know which electorate they’re in after the boundary changes, let alone who the candidates are. The Waitaki Electorate has the highest number of registered voters in the country, but the returning officer said she got lots of forms back from people saying their details were correct but they’d been put in the wrong electorate.
The EFS is getting in the way of this campaign with the problems stemming from both the scope of the Act’s intention and the way it was drafted.
…Parties have found calculating expenditure complicated by what is now a very broad definition of what constitutes election advertising…it’s possible a party logo alone will be deemed to be an advertisement – no one seems sure.
…What is prevailing is confusion and conservatism…The (Electoral) Commission…has opted not to provide any sign-off of expenditure before the election…
The trouble is none of this ofers any of the parties any certainty that what they are doing is not in breach of the EFA… some MPs may have already overspent…
Elections should never be decided by the courts and electioneering should not be such a guessing game.
…Constitutional laws require bipartisan suppport to be durable, They ought to be non-political.
There is more – buy a copy and read all it for yourself.