The boundaries of "treating" have come under scrutiny during the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection after Mana's candidate Te Hamua Nikora held a free sausage sizzle then drove up five or six carloads of young voters to the polling booths to make an early vote.
"Treating" is giving voters food, drink or similar inducement with the intention of influencing their vote and can result in up to a $40,000 fine or two years in prison, and an MP losing their seat. But the Electoral Act does allow for a "light supper" after campaign meetings and a spokesman for Mana said that a sausage and bread clearly fell within that.
The Electoral Commission gives a cup of tea and a light snack as an example, and warns candidates to be careful when providing any food that does not clearly fall within that definition in case it prompts a complaint.
Mana's spokesman said the sausage sizzle on Wednesday was at a political hui during the campaign to promote Mana's Food in School's Bill, which is to go before Parliament next week. He said providing light refreshments was allowed at such events.
He said driving voters to the polls was permitted and was a way to ensure young voters took part.
Electoral law specialist Graeme Edgeler said the "light supper" rule was fairly vague and it was possible a sausage fell within the criteria. Providing alcohol was a strict no-no, but otherwise it was a matter of judgment. Political parties can drive voters to the polls but can not tell them how to vote once there. Usually linking a campaign event with the process of voting is not an issue because campaigning is not allowed on Election Day, when the majority of voters vote. However, the separation is more blurred for advance voting. All the candidates in Ikaroa-Rawhiti have encouraged voters to vote early and at least three of the four main candidates put in advance votes themselves.
The Electoral Commission said that as of yesterday, 1222 voters had made an advance vote, well ahead of the 968 at the same stage before last year's general election.