Electoral Commission gets it wrong again | The Jackal

8 Sept 2014

Electoral Commission gets it wrong again

Today, those who stand up for free speech in a democratic society have had another victory. The organisations behind the Climate Voter campaign have won their High Court case against the Electoral Commission, who had previously ruled that the Climate Voter campaign to raise awareness about Climate Change issues was an electoral advertisement.

The Jackal had argued strongly against the Electoral Commission's flawed decisions, especially in terms of the Climate Voter campaign which was unjustly targeted by National's attack bloggers David Farrar and Cameron Slater. It's great to see the High Court judge has made the right decision in this case, especially in regards to this being a somewhat complex issue.

Here's Climate Voter reporting the good news:

This morning the High Court released its decision on the Climate Voter website at http://climatevoter.org.nz which the Electoral Commission considered to be an ‘election advertisement’ and therefore subject to a range of legal requirements.

Lawyer for the Climate Voter initiative, Dr Matthew Palmer QC, says the Court’s judgment accepts the core legal arguments made by the Climate Voter groups.

“The ruling confirms the core legal argument that the Electoral Act was not intended to capture normal issues-based advocacy. It upholds the right for websites to promote an issue as long as they do not encourage people to vote for or against a party or type of party,” he says.

The High Court also ruled against the Electoral Commission on another issue:

The High Court also ruled that a parody website at http://simon-bridges.co.nz created by Greenpeace, which the Electoral Commission said was an election advertisement, leading to the site being taken down, could not be considered an election advertisement. The site, which appeared to belong to the Minister for Energy Simon Bridges, was engulfed by swirling oil as part of an ongoing campaign by the organisation against deep sea oil drilling.

“Greenpeace is very pleased that our position on the Bridges parody site is completely vindicated,” says spokesperson Steve Abel.

So what's with the Electoral Commission making all these dodgy calls? It almost seems as though they're misinterpreting the law in order to try and shut down debate on anything that the current government doesn't want to talk about.

Not only have they put a lot of people through the court system that clearly shouldn't have had to pay lawyers to ensure the have freedom of speech, the Commission has consistently undermined New Zealanders right to be involved in the political debate either through advocacy for a particular issue or light hearted parody in the lead up to an election.

Clearly the Electoral Commissions decision making processes and the people involved in them need some attention in the form a procedural audit.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the courts also rule in favour of the musician Darren Watson. Let's just pre-empt their decision in favour of a fair and democratic New Zealand by playing his most excellent song, Planet Key: