After weeks of campaigning, election day is here.
If you’re not one of the New Zealanders to have already cast their advance vote, then today’s the big day for heading to the polling booths.
And if you are voting today, then you’ll need to wait until 7pm before you can shout to your social media followers about who you voted for.
It’s against the law to publish anything today that could be seen as potentially influencing another voter until the polling stations close at 7pm.
This is why all those political billboards that have been clogging the streets should have magically disappeared this morning. Even vehicles with political party signs or bumper stickers are supposed to be kept out of public view until 7pm.
But these election day rules also extend to your social media accounts.
Check that profile picture
Until 7pm today, you can’t post any content on social media that could influence – or try to influence – someone else’s vote.
Doing so is a breach of the Electoral Act and can be punished with a fine of up to $20,000.
You can remind other people to vote or share that you have voted but you can’t post about who you voted for and why. That includes posting any photos of your completed voting paper.
The Electoral Commission also recommends changing any profile pictures, filters or frames that support a particular party or candidate to avoid inadvertently committing an offence if you post on social media today.
Any existing posts you might already have on social media about parties or candidates don’t need to be taken down.
Why do we have these rules?
The intention is that people should be free from influence when they vote on election day, the Electoral Commission says.
That might seem silly given people have been able to post as much as they like before today about their vote, but rules are rules.
Do people ever get caught out?
There have been a few high profile instances of people breaking these social media election day rules over the years.
Broadcaster Sean Plunket was investigated over a tweet he sent on election day in 2017, while a handful of sports stars were also investigated over election day tweets in 2014.
Rugby players Israel Dagg and Jonah Lomu were both caught out over tweets to their followers, while Olympic rower Eric Murray used the Twitter account he shared with teammate Hamish Bond to also voice his support for one of the parties.
Murray said he wasn’t aware of the election day rules and went on to delete the offending tweet.
At the time, Bond told the NZ Herald he blamed Murray entirely for the incident on their shared Twitter account.
“He’s a moron,” Bond said.
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