A legal expert says unless Lorde is taken to court and found guilty, there is no way to definitively say she broke the law by sharing a photo of a voting ballot.
Electoral Officers are delegated to enforce the Local Electoral Act, and told the New Zealand musician to remove a post from social media depicting a voting ballot and a tick beside her preferred candidate.
Graeme Edgeler, an electoral and constitutional law expert, says the officer got it wrong.
Auckland electoral officer Dale Ofsoske said on Tuesday what Lorde posted crossed the line of section 122 of the Electoral Act, which was about not instructing or influencing others to vote in certain ways, including by sharing voting ballots real or imitated.
Ofsoske had more than 30 years’ experience as an electoral officer, and in the 2022 local government elections covered 22 areas.
He said Lorde’s post broke that rule and if she refused to remove it, he would need to inform police. If convicted, there could be a fine of up to $5000.
Lorde removed the post after being “told off” by the officer, she said in an Instagram video to her 9.5 million followers.
Edgeler said people shouldn’t be told they are breaking the law “when they aren’t”.
In his reading of the law, it was only a breach if she had instructed, or intended to trick people into printing her version of the ballot to use as their own.
“It’s a weird law and not well-written,” he said.
He said this part of the Act had been unclear and misinterpreted for years, but a lack of political will and public interest meant it would remain so until someone was taken to court over it.
Or if it was re-written – “but the question is, whose job would it be to clarify it?” he said.
Edgeler said the use of the Act was illogical, but also an issue of free speech, to tell people you can’t encourage others to vote in certain ways.
He gave examples of friends swapping recommendations, or online polls where people indicated which candidates they may or may not vote for.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern threw her weight behind Auckland mayoral candidate Efeso Collins. Speaking at a press conference, Ardern endorsed Collins, saying he was a candidate who could “bring together Auckland”.
Ofsoske could not be reached for further comment.
Christchurch electoral officer Jo Daly would not comment on the situation with Lorde as it wasn’t her area, but noted Ofsoske’s move was in line with her interpretation of the rules.
She told Aaron Keown, a councillor with nine years’ experience, to remove a copy of his voting ballot, which he posted online last week.
Daly said this was the way she and others officers had interpreted the Act for years.
Until the Act changed, she intended to enforce it consistently.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, I’ve dealt with several instances of this [breach] in this election, I’ve responded to them all the same,” she said.
Publicly publishing a ballot and saying who people should and shouldn’t vote for “where a large number of people can access it, and it’s public… that is different from a private view”, she said.
Lorde declined to comment.