Election 2020: Why you’re not seeing any political news right now

You might have thought your favourite news outlets would be brimming with political coverage on what is arguably New Zealand’s most important day – election day.

Across the country, Kiwis are casting votes to have their say on who should run the country for the next three years.

Yet they will also find news outlets – and should find social media outlets – largely quiet on the election today.

That’s because the law bars anyone from doing anything that could influence votes on election day, over the 19 hours between midnight and 7pm Saturday, when polls close.

Media companies cannot publish political opinions, political advertising and other news stories, tweets or social media posts that could have an influence on voters.

Politicians must ensure they have taken down all election billboards and stop campaigning or doing political walkabouts to win over voters.

They can still chat with ordinary New Zealanders and encourage them to vote – so long as they don’t encourage them who to vote for.

The law means Kiwis are able to have a day of quiet to contemplate their voting decision without being bombarded by relentless political messaging.

Media outlets are subsequently left to publish photos of the public and politicians at voting booths and provide articles containing only general voting information.

It also means photos of cute dogs visiting voting booths are favourite go to’s for news outlets.

Yet while some no doubt appreciate the peace and quiet, others have questioned why the law exists.

As of the end of Thursday, more than 1.7 million New Zealanders had cast early votes.

That figure is well ahead of the 1.2 million who cast advance votes last election and means 50.7 per cent of the country’s 3.4 million enrolled voters have already had their say.

Some political pundits say these voters voted while subject to a swathe of political campaign ads and media stories.

They argue that made the election day blackout seem silly.

Regardless of where New Zealanders stand on the law, those who have been missing their political fix will soon be barraged again with political stories.

The ban on political coverage lifts at 7pm.

The Herald is planning comprehensive, radio, video, digital and print coverage and analysis of the results.

Before then, the Electoral Commission will release its official early voting count at 2pm, showing just how many people had cast their ballots as at the end of Friday.

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