It’s election day in New Zealand and Google NZ even has a special logo.
This is our third NZ election since we arrived on election day in 2005, our second as permanent residents and our first as New Zealand citizens.
As a New Zealand citizen, I have pledged to be an upstanding bloke and uphold the laws of the land. It is a pity then to discover that at least one of those laws doesn’t appear to be particularly well thought through. The very activity that I am currently engaged in – that is, using social media – is, on election days, punishable by a fine of up to $20,000 if the commentary is deemed to imply support for a certain party.
The Aucklander reports that the New Zealand Electoral Commission is steadfast in unequivocally stating that its “advice to people using social media is not to post messages on election day”. That the Commission also “…enjoys strong public support…” is highly debatable – or simply disingenuous – judging from the commentary I have seen today.
While political views within the family are quite wide-ranging (judging from my own tentative kitchen table exit poll), we all agree on the value of having the freedom to participate in elections, choose constituency representatives and seek to elect a government that represents the best interests of the people.
We are acutely aware of the influence the larger parties can exert through the mainstream media and how minority groups can often be sidelined or disadvantaged by not having appropriate access to informed opinion or media channels to make needs known and voices heard.
A Facebook-loving family member with an intellectual disability voted for the first time today and I have spent some time treading the fine line between trying to provide them with support and advice while avoiding exerting undue influence on how they wish to vote. They, along with other who have intellectual disabilities, use social media to bridge social distancing, maintain and grow the friendships they establish and discuss issues that affect their lives – and this includes local and national politics.
I spent some time explaining how certain policies that could possibly lead to those with intellectual disabilities experiencing increased issues in accessing representation, funds or services later on. We discussed why attractive vote-catching promises and pledges made by politicians might not actually eventuate and how that is different to lying. Yet when asked how politicians are allowed do those things but discussing the election with friends via social media isn’t allowed, I struggle to offer a cogent or reasonable answer.
While I am neither allowed nor wish to offer comment or opinion on today’s election, having heard all the political chat going on, my youngest sent me the following video in which Tim Hawkins offers a wry look at government in general.
Disclaimer: this video is for entertainment and in no way represents a view on any current political process in any way, shape or form. Really.