Daily Archives: December 19, 2013

Dunedin: On the 2001 Local Electoral Act, and more [Complaint]

Received from Lee Vandervis.
Thursday, 19 December 2013 11:56 a.m.

{Copy of this complaint has been forwarded to Wilma McCorkindale (Fairfax News) and Debbie Porteous (ODT) who met Lee Vandervis this morning. The layout of the forwarded email has been slightly modified due to limitations of the WordPress template. Some personal contact details and email addresses have been removed or deactivated. -Eds}

—— Forwarded Message

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Formal Complaint to the Electoral Commission, and Hon Chris Tremain – Minister for Local Government
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2013 08:32:24 +1300
From: Lee Vandervis
To: feedback @ elections.org.nz, c.tremain @ ministers.govt.nz

Formal Complaint to the Electoral Commission 10/12/2013

Dear Electoral Commission and Hon Chris Tremain – Minister for Local Government.

I wish to make a formal complaint regarding a breach of section 197 of the NZ Electoral Act 1993 [Reprint as at 5 August 2013];

197 Interfering with or influencing voters

● (1) Every person commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000 who at an election—

g) at any time on polling day before the close of the poll exhibits in or in view of any public place, or publishes, or distributes, or broadcasts,—

● (i) any statement advising or intended or likely to influence any elector as to the candidate or party for whom the elector should or should not vote;

Specifically under the Local Electoral Act 2001

Part 7 http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2001/0035/latest/link.aspx?id=DLM94784
Offences http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2001/0035/latest/link.aspx?id=DLM94784

122 Interfering with or influencing voters

● (1) Every person commits an offence, and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000, who—

(a) interferes in any way with any person who is about to vote with the intention of influencing or advising that person as to how he or she should vote:

(b) prints, publishes, distributes, or delivers to any person (using any medium or means of communication) a document, paper, notice, or message, being or purporting to be in imitation of any voting document to be used at the election or poll that,—

—(i) in the case of an election, includes the name of a candidate or candidates, together with any direction or indication as to the candidate or candidates for whom any person should vote:

—(ii) in the case of a poll, includes a statement or indication as to how any person should vote:

—(iii) in any way contains or suggests any such direction or indication or other matter likely to influence how any person votes:

(c) prints, publishes, or distributes any instruction on the method of marking the voting document that differs in any material way from the instructions required by this Act or any regulations made under this Act to accompany the voting document.

.

On the Saturday 21st of September 2013, the day on which the majority of Dunedin voters would have received their voting papers in the mail, the weekend edition of the Otago Daily Times printed an unprecedented 2 page “LOCAL BODY ELECTIONS HOW THEY RATED Opinion: Council reporter Chris Morris’ ratings of the council’s best and worst performers” which I allege was clearly designed to influence or advise voters as to how they should vote.
This ODT ratings of Councillors was authoritatively described in the introduction as being from “reporter Chris Morris [who] has occupied a unique vantage point on the press bench, watching more of the debate unfold than any other member of the public”. [It fails to note that much Councillor work is in non-public meetings and in individual contacts which an ODT reporter has no knowledge of.]
In this 2 page publication, the Mayor and each Councillor was named and photo shown followed by a column of text, in a format similar to the electoral information booklet accompanying voting papers, – additionally scored/10, and ‘Standing again’ noted. The text ‘opinion’ that accompanied each Councillor’s numerical/10 rating was heavily emotive, biased, and largely devoid of fact in many instances.
Further, I believe that the effect of this publication had a significant effect on voting to the extent that no Councillor that received a Chris Morris rating of less than 6/10 was re-elected. This despite two sitting Councillors of long experience, Cr Paul Hudson and Cr. Teresa Stevenson, looking likely to be re-elected but severely disadvantaged in this publication with damning comment and scores of 4/10 and 3/10 respectively. Cr. Hudson’s lost seat in particular was a surprise as he had a strong advertising campaign as well as a long uninterrupted Councillor history. Cr. Stevenson’s campaign was minimal, but always had been in the past and had still been enough to ensure uninterrupted re-election for many prior terms.
Although re-elected myself with a comfortable first interation selection, I believe that the ODT ratings publication severely impacted both my Mayoral and my Councillor vote, as a result of a slew of slanderous personal attacks in my single ratings column, contrasting strongly with Mayor Cull’s six columns of mostly misleading praise.

Mayor Cull’s praise included claiming he had delivered on promises of spending cuts, efficiencies, and greater transparency, when Mayor Cull’s Council had in fact increased debt by a record $176 million, failed to reduce bloated staff costs, and organised a secret caucus Liaison Committee which illegally prevented Councillors outside the Committee from attending. Mayor Cull also falsely claimed in his electoral pamphlet that his Council had saved ratepayers $100 million in interest costs by reducing the Stadium debt term from 40 years, when in fact it was Mayor Cull’s Council that had increased the term to 40 years in the first place.
The slanderous adjectives used by Chris Morris in my column included; “hogging…headlines [ironically this same reporter was responsible for most headlines], accused of getting facts wrong, grandstanding or a bullying tone, irate outburst, when angry as he often appears, his boiling shade of red is a sight to behold. Can sit like a storm cloud in council meetings, seemingly ready to erupt, walk out, or both.”…

The clear intention to influence and advise voters in this unprecedented 2 page slander of some candidates, and whitewash of others, could not be more plain.
The devastating result on the election outcome was also marked, as the ODT is the only local Dunedin daily newspaper, and the other local weekly and local TV channel are all owned by the same Allied Press Ltd.
With this ‘Council reporter ratings publication’, the ODT did not just ‘interfere in any way with any person who is about to vote’, the publication interfered in many ways with thousands of people who were about to vote, significantly altering the voting outcomes of the election. This on top of more subtle ODT bias in headlines, omissions, and comment regarding Council issues in the year leading up to the election.

I highlighted two such recent examples in my letter to the Editor of 22nd/9/2013 as follows;

From: Lee Vandervis
Date: Sun, 22 Sep 2013 12:01:03 +1200
To: EditorODT, Nicholas George S Smith [Allied Press], Julian Smith [Allied Press]
Cc: Chris Morris [ODT]
Conversation: A reporter’s ranting ratings! – Letter to the Editor
Subject: A reporter’s ranting ratings! – Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor.

A reporter’s ranting ratings! – on voting-papers-weekend!

Dear Editor,

With two pages of a reporter’s ranting ratings! on Councillors, the ODT has emotively screwed with voter preferences just as their voting papers arrive.
For the Mayoralty the ODT has again backed a TV-show-pony instead of a work-horse.

Where was Saturday’s headline ‘Cull falsely claims saving ratepayers $100+ million’ when the ODT knows he tried costing us that $100+ million in 2012 to disguise a double digit rates-rise?*
Where is the headline ‘Imaginative and informative election posters from Vandervis’? [photo here – see attached].

You have helped buy a Stadium that we can not pay for, neither capital nor operational, and failed the only candidate that told you so and still might have been able to pay for both.
You are sending our new CEO saviour in search of a saner situation.
You have, in this most important ODT issue of the triennium, taken the Dunedin disease of savaging style over substance to new debilitating depths.
You have permanently compromised any perceived impartiality of your primary DCC reporter, and warned off any decent future DCC candidates.

Winchell’s fate awaits you.

Cr. Clydesdale Vandervis

[“Walter Winchell – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Winchell http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Winchell
You know what Winchell was doing at the end? Typing out mimeographed sheets with his column, handing them out on the corner. That’s how sad he got.”]

● “Mayor Dave Cull said he was “vehemently opposed” to repaying the debt over 40 years, because of the interest it would add to the bill, but would support it in the meantime to keep rates down.” [ODT 26 Jan 2012]

image.jpg

Feedback following the Councillor ratings publication was so severe from many different people that I decided to cancel all further advertising with the ODT on 29th Sept., 10 days before the close of voting as below.

From: Lee Vandervis
Date: Sun, 29 Sep 2013 23:07:22 +1300
To: Esther Lamb [Allied Press]
Cc: Nicholas George S Smith [Allied Press], Julian Smith [Allied Press]
Conversation: Lee Vandervis
Subject: Re: Lee Vandervis

Hi Esther,

Thank you for looking after me personally, but your Editors and Morris have undone any good there might have been in our ODT advertising by the obscene Sept 21st 2 pages of ‘Councillor ratings’ in which I have been slandered and Mayor Cull has been rolled in glitter.
Please cancel any further ads and send me a final account.

Kind regards,
Lee

4 Links to the ODT 21/9/2013 Councillor rating publication appear below;
http://archive.odt.co.nz/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=T0RULzIwMTMvMDkvMjEjQXIwMzAwMA==&Mode=Gif&Locale=english
http://archive.odt.co.nz/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=T0RULzIwMTMvMDkvMjEjQXIwMzAxNw==&Mode=Gif&Locale=english
http://archive.odt.co.nz/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=T0RULzIwMTMvMDkvMjEjQXIwMzEwNA==&Mode=Gif&Locale=english
http://archive.odt.co.nz/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=T0RULzIwMTMvMDkvMjEjQXIwMzEwMw==&Mode=Gif&Locale=english

I ask that you investigate this complaint, and if you discover that section 122 of the Local Electoral Act or other section has in fact been breached, that you move to appropriately censure the ODT in such a way as to publicly highlight the breach, and especially to prevent this or any other newspaper doing this to Candidates in future elections. The ODT has responded to comment on its Ratings of Candidates publication by saying that it will consider including Regional Council and Hospital Board Candidates in a similar Ratings publication for future elections.
The already too powerful influence of Allied Press’ monopoly print and TV media in Dunedin has become so extreme with this ODT Councillor Ratings paper coinciding with delivery of voting papers, that the outcome of the electoral process effectively rides on the shirt-tails of ODT published opinion.

Looking forward to your response,

Kind regards,
Cr. Lee Vandervis

—— End of Forwarded Message

[ends]

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

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