Weather off the radar on Saturday

Last updated 05:00 24/11/2011

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Do not mention the weather and the election in the same breath on Saturday, whatever you do.

No weather anywhere in the country can be reported publicly and linked to voting from 9am to 7pm on election day, the Electoral Commission says.

The commission says that, under the 1993 Electoral Act, "statements such as `weather looks a bit bleak, turnout quiet at this polling place' would be prohibited as such a statement could be construed as discouraging people from voting".

Section 197 of the act "does not just prohibit statements likely to influence voters as to who to vote for or not vote for".

The act also prohibits any statement advising or intended or likely to influence any elector to abstain from voting, the commission said.

Any loose comment about sunny spells encouraging or discouraging voters could result in a fine of up to $20,000.

Blue Skies Weather forecaster Tony Trewinnard said the ruling seemed "very odd".

"Couldn't you argue that if a person knows they will need a coat they are more likely to put one on and go to vote than if they walk out the door without one, find it too chilly, and go back home again thinking `nah, I won't bother'?

"As a forecaster of 25 years practical hands-on experience, I can personally assure the commission that there will be weather right around the country on Saturday, that people will notice it and talk about it, and people will want to know how it might change during the day.

"I wonder how many people standing in the queue waiting to cast their vote will talk about the weather and election in the same sentence to the person standing next to them? Oh, sorry, probably not supposed to suggest there might be a queue – could influence whether people vote or not," Mr Trewinnard said.

A commission spokeswoman told The Press weather comments alone were OK, but linking weather with voter behaviour was not.

Former Labour prime minister David Lange made perhaps the most famous election forecast of the last 30 years.

He suggested before the 1984 election that Labour would defeat Sir Robert Muldoon's National government even if the country was under a foot of snow on polling day.

As it turned out, about a quarter of New Zealand was, with returning officers in Otago and Southland seriously considering deferring voting due to blizzard-like conditions.

Blue Skies says a strong but decreasing southwesterly airflow over New Zealand on Saturday should bring a few showers in the far south and maybe the far north, but fine if cool and breezy weather to the rest of the country, including Canterbury.

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- The Press


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