Sunday, September 23, 2007

We Do What We're Polled

The J&E select committee have been very kind to me, giving a week's notice for my oral submission on the Electoral Finance Bill this Thursday. Some have not been so lucky, having only a day or two's notice. Now the aBc competition is out of the way, I've had a chance to continue researching my Thursday blurt.

Leaving aside all the third party nonsense for one moment, it is interesting what little loopholes are entrenched for existing parties. Take, for example, the definition of an electoral expense. Clause 59 of the Electoral Finance Bill echoes the Electoral Act's interpretation for candidates and parties:
Election expenses does not include the cost of any of the following:
(ii) the conduct of any survey or public opinion poll
I scrutineered for the Labour party in '87 before I was old enough to vote. I have used party databases from Labour, National and Act. Suffice it to say I have some inkling of what this exemption means. While the EFB wants to define everything except breathing as an election advertisement, parties are free to throw unlimited funds into polling of any description.

Databases of voter preferences are like gold to parties. They are more effective at niching one's message than the scatter shot approach of pamphleteering. As The Century of Self documentary demonstrates, if one can focus group the swinging voters and find something to yank their chains, the election is yours. Push-polling is not an election expense. Yeah Right. Kill the Bill.