Jonah Lomu among stars referred to police over vote tweets
Prime Minister John Key believes All Blacks Israel Dagg and Jonah Lomu were acting in ignorance of the law when they tweeted support for National on election day.
The two, along with rower Eric Murray, tweeted on election day who they voted for, which is a breach of electoral rules.
The high-profile sportspeople were among more than 20 people referred to police over electoral law breaches.
Asked about the Electoral Commission's move to refer the two All Blacks to the police, Key said people needed to obey the law and it would be "wrong of me to get engaged in that".
He said it was not for him to speak about their particular case.
"But I surmise at least that it was done out of ignorance of the law rather than some sort of intent."
He would give the two a character reference, Key said.
He said the law was complex and with advanced voting, before election day, the select committee reviewing the election might want to look at that.
"I suspect any changes would reflect what happens prior to election day rather than what happens on the day."
Labour acting deputy leader Annette King said polling day electoral laws were "out of kilter" with reality and needed to be changed.
"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," King said.
"You can tweet right up to polling day while there's now early voting, and look how many people had early voting at this last eleciton - thousands."
Dagg, who has more than 87,000 followers on Twitter, tweeted on the afternoon of Election Day: "Just voted for @johnkeypm and the National party all the best for tonight #blueallday #National".
The All Blacks fullback soon deleted his tweet, saying: "First ever vote people my bad I don't read the fine print ... may the best party win".
Lomu, who has more than 49,000 followers, also backed National, tweeting: "@johnkeypm All the best Tonight Get in there everyone your last chance to vote and grow NZ go "National" #vote2014nz".
Murray, an Olympic gold medallist, tweeted: "Get out & vote NZ! Plenty of time left #decision14 Don't worry @johnkeypm you got my vote! #sportfunding".
Murray and Lomu also deleted their tweets.
CHANCES OF PROSECUTION 'SLIM'
Hayden Wilson, an electoral law expert at Kensington Swan, said he would be very surprised if the referrals ended up in prosecution.
The Electoral Commission's hands were tied when such incidents occurred.
It had to refer them to police if it believed an offence had been committed, unless the offence was so inconsequential that would not be in the public interest to refer it, he said.
He could see why the famous sports people would be referred, as their tweets would have reached their thousands of followers and could have influenced them, he said.
The chances of police moving ahead with a prosecution were very slim, he said.
"Once it is referred, the police then have a provision to say 'is this a good use of our resources to go ahead with a prosecution?'.
"There have been more serious breaches that they have not gone any further with."
There had been very few referrals for this sort of social media breach of the act in the past, he said.
"Last election there were a few more referrals but they more related to advertising.
"There have not been a lot of referrals for this kind of election day posting."
The Electoral Act, like many pieces of legislation, was struggling to keep up with the development on social media, he said.
"Social media has come a long way, even since the last election three years ago, and a lot of acts are not well equipped to deal with that."
The Electoral Commission confirmed social media breaches people had been referred to the Electoral Commission over included:
Seven incidents involving people publishing material indicating how they voted, or publishing statements likely to influence voters;
- Two incidents where a person posted a photograph of a completed ballot paper;
- 13 incidents involving people sharing an election day video featuring John Key and a Vote National Party message, two incidents involving people sharing a "vote for Nikki Kaye" message and two incidents involving individuals who posted online that they intended to vote more than once, which is also an offence.
RECENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION REFERRALS
October 30 2014 - Les King, the 2014 Focus New Zealand candidate for Whangarei, was referred to police for publishing election advertising that did not include a promoter statement and was not authorised in writing by the party secretary.
October 7 2014 - Avonhead Community Group was referred to police for distributing a leaflet prior to the election promoting a candidate without an authorisation statement.
October 6 2014 - MediaWorks was referred to police over statements made on election day by a George FM presenter that the commission viewed as intending to influence any elector about how to vote.
October 3 2014 - Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party Christchurch East candidate Robert Wilkinson was referred to police for distributing a letter promoting his candidacy and party without an promoter statement or party secretary authorisation.
August 5 2014 - Free FM and Tim Macindoe were referred to police for an ad on Free FM that ran before the election period. The ad also did not feature a promoter statement.
July 21 2014 - National's Napier candidate, Wayne Walford, was referred to police for displaying election advertising on a signwritten vehicle without a promoter statement or party secretary authorisation.
December 4 2013 - David Cunliffe was referred to police for publishing a statement on Twitter the day of the Christchurch East By-election intended, or likely to influence electors about who they should vote for.
September 11 2013 - MediaWorks was referred to police over a Jono and Ben at Ten skit on Novopay. The Commission argued the broadcast was an election programme outside the election period.
July 10 2013 - Six people alleged to have voted more than once in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election were referred to police.
April 15 2013 - 2011 Conservative Party candidates Larry Baldock and Peter Redman were referred to police for filing a false Candidate Election Expenses and Donations Return. Baldock was also referred for paying or arranging another person to pay election expenses in excess of the $25,000 maximum amount allowed.