27 Sep 2022

Social media post with claimed affiliation to Auckland mayoral candidate Wayne Brown removed for breaching electoral law

5:14 pm on 27 September 2022
No caption

The article was posted on the Chinese language social media platform WeChat. Photo: 123RF

A 'how to vote' article posted by a social media account that claims association with Auckland mayoral candidate Wayne Brown has been found to have breached the electoral law.

The article, which appeared on Chinese language social media platform WeChat, used imitation images of voting papers with Auckland mayoral candidate Wayne Brown's name ticked.

The images were removed after an electoral officer contacted Brown last week to inform him about the breach.

The article was posted by an account named "Wayne Brown Elections", which says it is responsible for promoting election information related to the candidate.

The article gave a step-by-step guide to voting, including several imitation photos of voting papers Brown as the only named candidate, and a tick next to his name.

Auckland Mayoral Candidate Wayne Brown

Auckland mayoral candidate Wayne Brown said he wasn't aware of the post until he was contacted by an official. Photo:

Independent electoral officer Dale Ofsoske said it was a clear breach of the law.

"I thought the example was inappropriate, and the legislation is quite clear that you cannot have anything that purports or is an imitation of a voting document.

"And I thought that was very close to the wind, so I have been in contact with the candidate and asked that be removed," he said.

An offence under section 122 of the Local Electoral Act 2001, on interfering or influencing voters, is liable to a fine of up to $5000.

Brown initially agreed to an in-person interview on the matter, but later declined, saying he had a busy schedule.

He told RNZ in a written statement that he was not aware of the original post and did not know about the WeChat account.

"The post was made by an enthusiastic supporter. I was not aware of the post at all until contacted by an official.

"I then tracked down who had posted it and the post was removed."

Brown said he was not entirely clear the law applied to WeChat.

"In my message to the official, I intended to raise whether that provision applied to WeChat, but I may not have been clear, and of course accept the returning officer's interpretation," he said.

Brown said he regretted any accidental breach of the law.

Otara Health chairperson Efeso Collins.

Auckland mayoral candidate Efeso Collins says the migrant community deserve straightforward information about elections. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Meanwhile, other candidates were not impressed.

Auckland mayoral candidate Efeso Collins said he was disappointed.

"Whether he knew or not, what's important is being honest to voters. And if you're saying 'this is my name' and 'this is who I want you to vote for', then say so, but the potential of imitating a voting document which has been deemed illegal is a clear breach of the rules."

The migrant community deserved straightforward information about elections, Collins said.

"Let's not play games with people where English is not their first language, and I think that's what's misleading and completely inappropriate about this."

Taiwan-born Howick ward councillor Paul Young, who was also running again for his seat, said he was concerned some in the community may have been misled.

"[It's] highly possible for those people not good in English but they want to participate in voting, if they don't know, or it looks like you need to pick two people, three people, they might just copy [and] follow that."

Many voters in ethnic communities relied on information on social media in their own language, Young said.

Meanwhile, the latest poll released by TVNZ's Q+A programme, undertaken by Kantar Public, shows Wayne Brown is leading the Auckland mayoralty race at 35 percent - 6 points ahead of Efeso Collins.

The polling of 1000 people was conducted between 16-20 September.

Voting will close at midday on 8 October.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs