The new regulated period

There is a bit of confusion over this. The Herald reports:

The regulated period for expenditure in an election campaign could be less than three months under provisions of an electoral reform bill introduced to Parliament yesterday.

The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill sets out the reforms, most of which were announced in February.

The regulated period under Labour’s old Electoral Finance Act was from January 1 of election year.

Justice Minister Simon Power said in February it would revert to three months before an election.

Since then he has decided that it could be less than three months if an election were held at short notice.

But what is meant by short notice?
The bill defines the default day (with the regulated period starting the next day) as three months before the latest possible date an election could be called.

If the PM announces an election date prior to the default day, then the regulated period starts the day after the PMs announcement, unless the announcement is made more than three months before the election, in which case it is from three months out.

All a bit confusing, so let us take a real example. Parliament automatically dissolves on 22 November 2011 (three years after return of writs). This means the latest date the writs can be returned next time is 18 January 2012. To allow time for overseas votes and recounts, the latest practical date is 7 January 2012.

Hence the regulated period default day is 7 October 2012. If the PM has not announced the election date by 7 October 2012, it starts the next day,

Now say the election date is called for 26 November 2011. This means that if the PM announces it prior to 26 August 2011, the regulated period will be from 26 August 2011.

If he announces it between 26 August 2011 and 7 October 2011, it will be from the day after he announces it.

If he has not announced it by 7 October 2011, then it will be from 8 October 2011.

In a general sense an election can be held as late as approximately 57 days after the date of the last election. If one gets into a pattern of always having the election at the end of November, it means the default day will tend to be around six weeks before the election.

So the likely regulated period is for six weeks, unless the PM gives more than six weeks notice. So what is the normal notice period:

  1. 1981 – 61 days
  2. 1984 – 30 days
  3. 1987 – 46 days
  4. 1990 – 79 days
  5. 1993 – 53 days
  6. 1996 – 144 days
  7. 1999 – 62 days
  8. 2002 – 46 days
  9. 2005 – 54 days
  10. 2008 – 57 days

As I have previously blogged, I prefer setting the default day to be three months before the dissolution of Parliament rather than the final possible date for an election (which can be a slightly subjective matter).

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