Independent electoral review

Independent electoral review

In June the Independent Electoral Review panel sought submissions on its interim report. TINZ responded with a submission supporting many of the panel’s recommendations, but not all.

Here are some that we find concerning:

Prisoners – right to vote, and to stand for election whilst in jail

We agreed with the panel that prisoners should have a right to vote and/or for their names not to be removed from the electoral register, but we queried whether the courts should be enabled to apply disenfranchisement in certain cases.

Our support does not extend to the panel’s assumption that a right to vote whilst in prison should naturally extend to a right to stand for election whilst in prison. Setting aside the practicality of being able to fulfil the role whilst incarcerated, the nature of the crime is highly pertinent to a position holding public office because of the weight of representation and exercise of political power that comes with election. This justifies a wider margin of consideration compared to the eligibility to vote.

There are already many situations that exist where a person’s current or past criminal convictions can result in their exclusion from consideration in employment, training, licensing and overseas travel. We raised our concerns about people convicted of crimes such as treason, national security, money-laundering, fraud, corruption, and terrorist related crimes. There will be a range of other convictions that are of concern including bankruptcy, murder and sex crimes.

In many jurisdictions disclosure of past criminal convictions, or serious convictions is required so that voters can make an informed choice. This seems a reasonable means of improving the informed vote.

Political party funding, auditing

We agree with the panel’s proposal that the Electoral Commission should have more powers to hold political parties to account in terms of auditing and registering, and the closure of the loophole where an unregistered party can avoid disclosure by becoming a component of a registered party. We also agree with a greater stewardship role for the Electoral Commission.

The review panel recommended that only individuals on the electoral roll should be able to loan or donate to parties and candidates i.e that loans and donations from organisations should not be accepted. TINZ has not formed an opinion on this yet, but we think it needs to be analysed further.

Our position generally is that transparency and funding caps are needed to limit the conflict of interest for elected officials, to reflect the will of the voters and to ensure that voters are informed in a timely manner as to who is financially backing candidates and parties. For this reason we also advocate for transparency of parliamentary service funding, which is currently not visible to the public.

Election Advertising – Social Media

We submitted that existing data collection and privacy legal frameworks do not adequately address concerns about microtargeting in election advertising. We referred the Panel to our report Online Political Campaigning in New Zealand

We wholeheartedly agree with the recommendation to prevent third party promoters using money from overseas persons to fund election advertising in the three months before an election.

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