Election day isn't just for voting, there are countless rules to follow between the hours of 12am and 7pm on September 23rd. Professional voter Madeleine Chapman spells them out for The Spinoff.
At 11:59pm on Friday September 22nd, New Zealand will be as it has been for the past two months. Drowning in a swamp of an election, desperately reaching for the surface only to grab more Winston Peters and sink further. But as that clock strikes midnight and someone inevitably pashes someone they don't like on the dancefloor at Longroom, the election will be erased. For it will be election day and only on election day is it illegal to propagandize about the election.
Thanks to laws written before the internet and seemingly before independent thinking, it's illegal to influence voters on election day in any way, shape or form. That means when you wake up on Saturday morning and head out to vote, there'll be something different in the air. Something like an emptiness.
Here's what is and isn't legal on election day and what to do if you spot any criminal behaviour.
NOTE: although they're a bit ridiculous and funny, these are actual laws and people have been prosecuted for breaking them. But also they're dumb and should be abolished.
All parties will be sending their minions out late Friday night to take down every last vandalised hoarding. The implication is that if you drive to a voting booth and see Winston Peters' face on the way, you'll vote for Winston Peters. The implication is that we're all idiots and if you see a hoarding while out and about on Saturday you should call the police.
NO CARS WITH FACES ON THEM
What's more persuasive than a hoarding? A car with a politician's face on it. They too must be kept covered and out of sight from midnight to 7pm on election day. Luckily MPs get paid way more than the average voter so they'll probably have a garage in which to hide their giant face cars. If you see David Seymour driving his David Seymour car through the McDonald's drive-thru at 1am on Saturday, call the police.
A hoarding is a constant static advertisement. A face car is a moving advertisement. But an actual face is the greatest advertisement of all. There is no rule stating that politicians aren't allowed in public on election day but based on the strictness of not putting your face in front of voters, I assume they all have to stay hidden until 7pm. If you see any candidate walking around the mall without a pixelated face, call the police before someone has their vote influenced.
If you receive a political ad in the mail on Saturday, call the police. If you think it may have been delivered on Friday but you only checked on Saturday, it'll have the same effect but is completely legal. My advice would be to not look in your mailbox, around your mailbox, or anywhere outside until you reach the voting booth. If you come into contact with any material that bears the name or face of a candidate, call the police.
No one is allowed to wear any piece of candidate merch. You can rep your colours and you can wear a political party lapel badge (which of course everyone owns) but ONLY ONE BADGE OR ROSETTE IS ALLOWED PER PERSON. If you have one of those Obama t-shirts from 2008, leave it at home. If you have a concert t-shirt from when you saw The National perform live, cover that shit up or someone (me) will call the police.
Media are not allowed to publish any article or news item pertaining to the election unless it is about how to vote or how to watch election coverage. If you're sick of seeing the names Patrick Gower, Corin Dann, and Toby Manhire in your timeline, election day will be your only respite. Enjoy the politics-free 19 hours between midnight and 7pm and then hide in a cave for the next 3 years. If you see Toby Manhire in person or in print, call the police.
NO SOCIAL MEDIA
The classic I-just-voted-here's-me-looking-good-with-a-sticker selfie is allowed and encouraged. But don't you dare say who you voted for. Voting is a private and shameful thing that legally we should all be ashamed of. So keep it to yourself or you'll be getting a visit from your local social media police who are in fact the real police.
To summarise, don't wear a mask of a politician's face; don't wear that Labour x Supreme collab tee that you kind of regret paying money for; and don't write a status about why everyone should vote for Greens/TOP/National because this far into the election campaign, no one cares. Also all those things are illegal.
But you know what's great? You can vote today if you want. And if you want, you can do any and all of the things listed above. In fact, you can do anything you want right up until 11:59pm on Friday 22nd September. What's the difference between posting a political status at 11:59pm and posting one at midnight, you ask?
Like I said, it's dumb.
This story was first published in The Spinoff.