Submission to the Local Electoral Advertising Amendment Bill

I have publicly advocated for the change proposed in this Bill

I have been a candidate in two general elections, in 2017 and 2020, for The Opportunities Party. As with the Local Electoral Act 2001, the Electoral Act 1993 (along with guidance from the Electoral Commission) requires candidates to use physical addresses on promoter statements. As such, I have personal insight into how the requirement to use a physical address affects candidates.

I have been advocating for a change just like the one proposed in the Local Electoral (Advertising) Amendment Bill. My interview with One News on this topic aired on 17 April, 2022, less than two weeks before the Minister of Local Government directed the Department of Internal Affairs to draft the Cabinet paper that led to this Bill. In that interview I proposed that candidates should be allowed to use email addresses on promoter statements. I’d like to think my advocacy for this change has played a part in bringing impetus to this long-standing issue. As a public face for this issue, several potential, past or present candidates for local and central government have contacted me about the problems they have faced due to the requirement to use their home address in promoter statements.

I have experienced harm from the address requirement

While I am a general election candidate, not a local election one, the Electoral Act also requires physical addresses on promoter statements. As such I have had to make the difficult decision of whether to make my, and my children’s, home address public. This is not a decision candidates for large and well-funded parties have to make. You have electoral or parliamentary office addresses you can use. This is not a decision that affects men and women, and people with marginalised identities equally. We know women and others who face discrimination are more at risk from threats of violence. So using home addresses has higher stakes for us.

I had to choose between using my home address in Wellington, or an Opportunities Party office address in Dunedin. I chose the latter even though I knew it would hurt my chances in my electorate: no one likes voting for a carpetbagger. I had many people ask why I was standing in Ohāriū if I didn’t live here. I have no way of knowing how many others who I didn’t speak to wrote me off immediately because they believed I was not a local.

I bring this story from the General Election to the Committee’s attention because it demonstrates how important it was to me not to use my home address. My family’s safety and privacy had to take precedence over winning votes.

Other potential, past or present candidates have shared stories of the harm it has caused them

As someone who has publicly spoken about this issue, I have had several people contact me about how the address requirement has harmed them. For obvious reasons, these people wish to remain anonymous. Here are some quotes, edited where required for anonymity:

This is from a woman from a small town:

For my first campaign, I used a photograph on my election signs, and of course the address was on each sign.

Due to the key location of my home address, I placed one of my election signs on my property. It was well known that I lived on my own.

One evening during my campaigning, I received an anonymous phone call from somebody wanting to know what would happen if I was not alive on election night.

The next morning, I discovered that somebody had come onto my property to slash the throat on my photograph and gouge the eyes out.

A couple of days later, I had to call the police because there were intruders in my back yard – something that had never happened to me before.

It is very hard campaigning when it is impossible to sleep at night, when people had to check my car in case it had been tampered with and I was always on the alert wherever I went.

I have yet to discover any reason for this requirement in the Electoral Act

This is from a young man whose progressive views and ethnicity make him an outlier in his local area:

This issue has made me reluctant to stand in local politics. I wanted to in 2019 but didn’t based on the address requirement.

My reasons behind this are influenced in several ways. I live in [rural area] where many views are quite different to mine particularly around climate change, co-governance with tangata whenua, three waters etc. Combine my progressive views on these topics and my ethnic background makes me genuinely fearful about putting my name forward due to the abuse I may receive on my doorstep with my residential address becoming a target.

I hope [a change] is enacted before July 15th when nominations open so I can stand, and hopefully enable other candidates to stand too, and enable greater diversity and voice in decision making.

I was also contacted by:

  • a young woman who had a stalker, and had decided she could never be a candidate if her home address needed to be made public
  • a man whose wife implored him not to use their home address, as they live with vulnerable older parents and with their young children; his address is their address too.

Safety isn’t the only concern

The address requirement seems to reflect a time when people routinely contacted each other by physical mail, and when people had stable home addresses. With a housing crisis, home ownership at record lows, and in a world where landlords evict tenants at the drop of a hat, we can’t expect everyone to have a home address, or for addresses to stay stable throughout an election campaign. As politicians yourselves, I’m sure you can imagine the expense and effort it would take to change the address on all your promoter statements during an election campaign.

So the address requirement discriminates against people with no homes, or with unstable homes.

In 2022, email addresses are far more stable and accessible than home addresses.

The Electoral Act also needs to change:

I ask the committee to recommend this Bill to the house. I also ask that you recommend that analogous changes be made to the Electoral Act. While the address requirement doesn’t harm those of you in parties that are in parliament, it does hurt independent candidates, and those from small parties like The Opportunities Party. If you value safety and diversity in our democracy you will want this change to the Electoral Act too.

The reasons this Bill are necessary apply in exactly the same way for the Electoral Act. If introduced this year, there would be no need to use urgency to change the Electoral Act.

Nāku noa, nā

Jessica Hammond