Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Election funding: enforcement

The Coalition for Open Government has a pair of posts up discussing ways to improve the enforcement regime around electoral law. In the first, they argue that having four different groups responsible for enforcement is a recipe for buck-passing and inaction, and propose folding the relevant functions into a single independent body with prosecutorial power. In the second, they argue compellingly for treating violations of election law as the serious crimes that they are:

Breaches of the serious electoral laws need to carry penalties commensurate with the seriousness of the offences – it is ludicrous that a candidate found destroying ballot papers cast for their opponent faces at most 6 months’ imprisonment, and worse that a party deliberately overspending it’s spending cap can’t even be charged (and in individual in that party convicted of that corrupt practice faces at most a $4000 fine and 1 year in prison).

Politicians and others who deliberately flout the rules we have in place to protect our elections from corruption should face stiff penalties – penalties that, with strict enforcement, will act as a real deterrent to anyone considering breaching the law.

They propose imposing criminal liability on parties, aligning the regimes under the Broadcasting and Electoral Acts so parties face similar offences for violating either, and increasing penalties so that they are commensurate with other offences and actually act as a deterrent. As they point out, you can get 7 years for stealing a car or anything valued at over $1000. Isn't stealing or attempting to steal an election just as serious?

I support these proposals. While the restructuring of election bodies may not be able to be done properly before the next election, the foundations can be laid for it to start soon afterwards, and prosecutorial power can at least be devolved. Increasing penalties for breaches however is something we can do quickly. The question is whether self-interested politicians will do it, or whether they'll once again write the law to suit themselves.

(Hat tip: DPF)


Jail should be mainly for acts of violence, not for administrative crime.

I'd suggest the following:
- less than 10% over the limit: fined twice the amount over and 20% off next elections spending cap
- 5-25%: vote deemed reduced by the amount over, resulting in loss of list and electorate seats + fine of twice the amount and 50% off next election.
- 25% - 100%: vote reduced by twice amount over, banned from contesting next election (will apply to all candidates)
- 100% or more: life ban for party and all candidates.

Posted by Rich : 4/17/2007 12:40:00 PM

Heh under Rich's proposal Labour would be banned from contesting the 2008 election, and would have lost three fifths of its 2005 vote, reducing it to 16%.

NRT - the actual law changes for a single electoral authority are quite simple. The implementation is more complex. So why don't we push for the amendment bill to include a merger, but for it to only take effect at the end of say 2009. That will give two years after the election to put it together.

Posted by David Farrar : 4/17/2007 01:14:00 PM

It is essential jail be an option. Rich's penalties will not deter politicians hungry for power in a tight election race. The possibility of jail time will.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/17/2007 01:14:00 PM

Well, as I said over on Kiwiblog if the Government doesn't have the testicular fortitude to take the COG's excellent recommendations on board, then I think National and other parties should be applying their collective wisdom to drawing up a comprehensive supplementary order paper to whatever legislation does come down the pipe.

Then, after proper consultation, parliamentary debate and public input we can see where the votes split and cast our own accordingly. :)

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 4/17/2007 02:39:00 PM

I'd suggest that if there isn't going to be state funding of parties then the parliamentary funding system is changed to:
- have no parliamentary funding beyond MPs pay and desk
- have parliamentary funding approved by an independent arbiter and, once approved, automatically legal. Which is how it was *thought* to be for many years by both parties
- have parliamentary funding available for any purpose the MP/party sees fit.

Which would all be impossible to abuse.

Of course, having media beatups and trying to put politicians in jail is so much more exciting...

Posted by Rich : 4/17/2007 05:27:00 PM

> Jail should be mainly for acts of violence, not for administrative crime.

I suggest Jail should be an option if there is nothing else sufficient to deter. For example a ross perot might be able to break al the rules in an election if the punishment is only party and future elections based and with fixed costs.

But if you can determine personal responsibility then why not jsut givethem a crippling financial penalty. I.e. take the Politicians house and car as opposed to just their parties money - with no upper limit to the amount you can fine.


Posted by Anonymous : 4/17/2007 06:21:00 PM