4 Nov 2014

Sports stars' tweets referred to police

8:10 pm on 4 November 2014

Three high-profile sports personalities are among 26 people referred to the police over electoral law breaches.

Jonah Lomu

Jonah Lomu Photo: REUTERS

The Electoral Commission has confirmed it has referred former All Black Jonah Lomu, current All Black Israel Dagg and Olympic champion rower Eric Murray to police for tweets sent on election day supporting the National Party. All three tweets have since been deleted.

The commission says it has referred 26 incidents to police in response to complaints about comments made on social media on election day.

That included 13 incidents involving people sharing an election day video featuring John Key and a Vote National Party message, it said.

Under electoral law it is illegal to campaign on an election day, a prohibition which covers the publishing or broadcasting of anything intended to influence votes.

Israel Dagg scores a try against the Springboks during their Rugby Championship test match in Dunedin in 2012.

Israel Dagg scores a try against the Springboks during their Rugby Championship test match in Dunedin in 2012. Photo: REUTERS

The numbers:

  • Seven incidents involved people publishing material indicating how they voted and/or publishing statements likely to influence voters; these include the comments by Jonah Lomu, Israel Dagg and Eric Murray.
  • Eric Murray

    Eric Murray Photo: PHOTOSPORT

  • In two cases, a person posted a photograph of a completed ballot paper together with a statement that could influence voters.
  • Thirteen referrals involved people sharing on election day a video featuring John Key and a 'vote National Party' message posted on the Young Nats Facebook page after the close of advance voting on Friday 19 September.
  • Two involved people sharing on election day a 'vote for Nikki Kaye National Party candidate, Auckland Central' message posted on her Facebook page on Friday 19 September.
  • An additional two have been referred to police for further investigation involving individuals who posted online that they intended to vote more than once. Voting more than once is an offence under Section 215 of the Electoral Act.

Call for overhaul of laws

The Labour Party says the legislation prohibiting any form of advertising on election day - including tweets that could influence voters - is out of date and needs to be reviewed.

Acting deputy leader Annette King said her preference would be to allow advertising to continue through polling day.

"I do find it absolutely dopey that you can advertise and you can even be outside a polling booth when there's early voting taking place - but on election day, all hoardings are down, you're not allowed to do anything.

"You can tweet right up to polling day - while there's now early voting and look how many people had early voting this last election - thousands."

Prime Minister John Key said he was not in favour of "massive expansion of promotion" on election day.

"I think if you haven't made the case by then it's probably a little bit too late," he said.

Mr Key said the matter might be something the Justice and Electoral Select Committee could look at.

At the election on 20 September this year 717,579 people cast an early vote, more than double the 334,558 early ballots cast in 2011 and well up on the 270,427 three years earlier.