Thursday, October 23, 2008


In a piece on the utterly laughable proposition of whether Sarah Palin is "operating from a plane of intelligence so elevated it seems like stupidity" (yes, really), the Guardian mentions that US ice-cream chain Ben & Jerry's is offering free icecream to anyone who votes in the US election. Which sounds cool - but in New Zealand it would also be illegal. Section 217 of the Electoral Act 1993 defines the offence of "Treating", buying or providing food or entertainment in exchange for votes. The relevant section is this:

Every person commits the offence of treating who corruptly, by himself or herself or by any other person on his or her behalf, either before, during, or after an election, directly or indirectly gives or provides, or pays wholly or in part the expense of giving or providing, any food, drink, entertainment, or provision to or for any person—

(a) for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting; or

(b) for the purpose of procuring himself or herself to be elected; or

(c) on account of that person or any other person having voted or refrained from voting, or being about to vote or refrain from voting.

(Emphasis added).

It's a corrupt practice, with a penalty of two years imprisonment and/or a $40,000 fine. Plus of course you get purged from the electoral roll and can't vote or stand.

Why is this relevant? Yesterday's Herald had a story promoting Kea NZ's Every Vote Counts campaign by offering free tickets to rugby games for people who encourage their overseas friends to vote. Which seems to fall within subclause (c) ("any other person having voted... or being about to vote").

As much as I a the sentiment behind this campaign (and I've emailed my overseas friends and told them to participate in our democracy), I like having a non-corrupt electoral system even more. Encourage people to vote all you like, but please don't try and bribe them into doing it.