Electoral Law

Why the NT seat of Lingiari keeps being mentioned in the VoterID Debate

Opponents of the Morrison government’s VoterID bill, currently being debated by Parliament, have regularly pointed out that some groups of voters will be disadvantaged by the new law if passed.

The argument is that some groups of electors are less likely to have the forms of identification set out in the bill, meaning they will be disproportionally represented amongst those denied access to an ordinary vote.

The group most often mentioned is Indigenous voters, in particular remote Indigenous voters, and the electoral division where this will have the most impact is Lingiari, the sprawling outback Northern Territory seat.

According to the 2016 Census, 40% of the division’s residents are Indigenous. But because remote voters are not included in the national automatic enrolment program, and because of cuts in remote indigenous enrolment programs, indigenous voters make up less than 40% of enrolled electors in Lingiari.

In Lingiari, remote postal services are largely non-existent and the electorate has the nation’s lowest rate of postal voting at 2.9%. As a proportion of electors, this figure is even lower in comparison to other divisions because Lingiari consistently has the nation’s lowest turnout. The turnout in Lingiari at the 2019 election was 72.9% compared to the national figure of 91.9%.

Turnout is low because remote Indigenous voters have little access to election day polling places used by other Australians, and because pre-poll ordinary voting is generally only available in Alice Springs, Katherine, and around Greater Darwin.

Most Indigenous votes are collected by remote mobile polling teams that travel around the electorate visiting communities for as little as one hour on a single day.

One of the key campaign jobs of candidates in Lingiari is making sure communities know when a mobile team is turning up, and making sure community members are around to vote when it arrives. Many miss out.

So Lingiari is central to the debate on voter ID. Remote indigenous electors are already the category of Australians least likely to be enrolled, least likely to have the opportunity to vote, and due to this new law, may become the group least likely to be allowed to cast an ordinary vote.Read More »Why the NT seat of Lingiari keeps being mentioned in the VoterID Debate

NSW Local Government Elections Website

I’ve published a new election website for the ABC.

It’s a site covering the twice delayed NSW Local Government Elections to be held on 4 December. You can find the site it at this link.

I assure you this is not the most riveting election site I’ve published. It’s more public service than news. Given that the NSW Electoral Commission’s website is difficult to navigate, I hope my more simple display of candidates and results will prove useful for voters and political tragics. I hope to add more content on the political composition of councils over the next week and a half.

In the rest of this post I’ll summarise some statistics on the elections and point to one or two oddities produced by the elections.Read More »NSW Local Government Elections Website

Government Introduces Bill Requiring Voters to show ID to Vote

The Morrison government this morning introduced the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Voter Integrity) Bill 2021. (You can find the bill and explanatory notes at this link)

The bill’s provisions will require polling day and pre-poll voters to present some form of identification when they turn up to vote. ID will be checked against details on the electoral roll before ballot papers are issued. Presentation of ID will replace voters being asked for their name and address.

There is no requirement for photo ID. There are numerous permitted documents to prove identity, including driver licences, passports, Medicare cards, proof of age cards, birth certificates, citizenship certificates, credit cards, bank statements, utilities, letters from the Electoral Commission, tax assessments and several documents specific to Indigenous voters.

Voters without ID can also be vouched for if they are voting with a voter who does have identity documents. This provision deals with couples turning up to vote when only one has brought their driver licence.

Voters unable to pass the above tests will still be allowed to vote, but they will be directed to another part of the polling place where they will be issued with ballot papers and a declaration vote envelope.Read More »Government Introduces Bill Requiring Voters to show ID to Vote

Alice Springs Mayor’s Two Vote Victory shows why Scrutineers Matter

While electoral officials will not always admit it, scrutineers play an important role in the transparency of elections.

Scrutineers are appointed by candidates as their representatives in observing the count. Scrutineers have the right to check the administrative paper work for the count, to observe all ballot papers as they are counted, to observe the checking of declaration envelopes, to challenge votes and request disputed ballot papers be tagged for adjudication. And they also play a role in spotting errors by counting staff.

If they represent one of the final candidates in the race, scrutineers perform another informal role on behalf of their candidate. Preferential voting means scrutineers want to closely observe ballot papers cast for lower polling candidates who will be excluded from the count. Scrutineers try to tally the destination preferences from these ballot papers, the flows of preferences to the final two candidates in the contest.

Since Electoral Commissions began to conduct indicative preference counts on election night, preference tallying by scrutineers has become less important. Now there are official counts that help parties know the close contests on election night. With this knowledge, the best scrutineers can be sent to the tightest counts for the post-election check count.

But what if there is no official preference count, and scrutineers don’t attend to do their two-candidate preferred estimates?

Exactly that happened in last month’s contest for Alice Springs Lord Mayor. One candidate was well ahead on first preferences. With no indicative preference count, and with no scrutineers doing their own preference counts, it wasn’t until the distribution of preferences that the leading candidate discovered he had been defeated.Read More »Alice Springs Mayor’s Two Vote Victory shows why Scrutineers Matter

More on Minimum Membership Requirements for Registering Political Parties

The Morrison government has introduced legislation that will lift the membership threshold for registering a federal political party from 500 to 1,500.

The legislation will not require parties with current parliamentary representation to meet the new requirement. All other parties will have three months after the legislation is passed to convince the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) that they meet the new membership requirement to retain registration.

There are currently 10 registered parties represented in the Commonwealth Parliament, with an eleventh about to be added with former Liberal Craig Kelly announced this week as the parliamentary leader of the United Australia Party. Kelly’s signing means the UAP no longer needs to meet membership requirement, in the same way the party was able to rely on former One Nation Senator Brian Burston for registration in 2016.

That leaves more than 40 parties needing to triple the list of names they provide to the AEC to retain registration.
Read More »More on Minimum Membership Requirements for Registering Political Parties

Is Increasing the Membership Requirement to Register Political Parties Justified?

The government’s proposed changes to party registration rules, released last week, will increase the number of members required to register a political party from 500 to 1,500. Understandably this proposal has attracted criticism, especially from the small parties that will now have to recruit more members.

I posted on Thursday about this and other proposed changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

Is this just an attack on small parties, or is it a justifiable attempt to make Senate ballot papers easier for voters to read and understand, and for the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to print and count?Read More »Is Increasing the Membership Requirement to Register Political Parties Justified?

Proposed Electoral Act changes for the 2022 Federal Election

Assistant Minister for Electoral Matters, Ben Morton, introduced four bills today to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act ahead of next year’s Federal election.

It’s important to say first that the bills do not include controversial proposals to introduce voter ID and optional preferential voting. Those were put forward by LNP Senator James McGrath in the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ (JSCEM’s) review of the 2019 election.

The bills also do not include any of JSCEM’s recent proposals to change the Electoral Act to deal with holding elections in a period when Covid is widespread or lockdowns are in place. Presumably any changes related to Covid will be introduced closer to the election.

These bills introduce a number of changes to counting procedures, party registration, non-party campaign expenditure, multiple voters and other campaigning offences. Some of the changes are more controversial than others, so the changes have been split into four bills.

The most controversial changes concern party registration, and splitting the changes avoids the problem where important changes in an omnibus amendment bill are delayed by more controversial parts of the bill.

Below is my summary of the proposed changes with links to the source documents on the bills.
Read More »Proposed Electoral Act changes for the 2022 Federal Election

Electoral Law, Savings Provisions and Senate Reform

Someone reading my article on reforming the WA Legislative Council’s electoral system reminded me of a speech I did a number of years ago on Senate electoral reform and issues to do with savings provisions.

The speech was at the launch of a UNSW Law Journal special Issue number 39(1) with various papers on electoral law.

The Journal had several papers on different areas of electoral law. I addressed each of the papers before spending much of the speech on savings provisions and in particular looking at the issue of savings provisions with the reformed Senate electoral system.

The speech was shortly before the 2016 election, after the Senate electoral reforms had passed, but before they were ruled constitutional by the High Court.

Having watched the speech back, I thought it worth sharing and it can be viewed via the YouTube link in the post.Read More »Electoral Law, Savings Provisions and Senate Reform

WA’s Experiment with Lower House Ticket Voting

Divided Senate ballot papers and Group Voting Tickets were first introduced for Senate elections in 1984. They were later adapted for use in the four mainland states with Legislative Councils, South Australia in 1985, NSW in 1988, Western Australia in 1989 and Victoria finally in 2006.

Divided ballot papers remain in use for electing upper houses in all jurisdictions. However, group voting tickets (GVTs), allowing parties to control between-party preferences, have fallen out of favour. GVTs were abolished in NSW in 2003, for the Senate in 2016 and in South Australia in 2018. GVTs are still part of the upper house voting system in Victoria and Western Australia.

All states except Western Australia adopted the Senate’s horizontal ballot paper where groups are listed left to right, with voters given the option of voting ‘above the line’ for party groups, or ‘below the line’ for lists of candidates. Western Australia finally adopted this ballot paper in 2017.

The original WA upper house ballot paper listed parties and groups vertically. Voters were given the choice of voting for groups on the left of the ballot paper, or for candidates on the right.

The reason Western Australia adopted a different ballot paper was because the design was intended to be used for both upper and lower house elections. The divided lower house ballot paper was used for three by-elections in 1988 but then abandoned before the 1989 state election.

A sample of the divided ballot paper used for the 1988 Ascot by-election is shown below.Read More »WA’s Experiment with Lower House Ticket Voting

What’s in a Party Name?

UPDATE 2 February – The name change has been approved by by the WA Electoral Commission.

For a party that argues “Australian democracy is broken”, that claims to be “Australia’s most transparent political party”, the Flux Party of Western Australia has taken a breathtakingly cynical step ahead of next March’s Western Australian election.

As shown below, the party has proposed to change its name and hopes to appear on ballot papers in March as “Liberals for Climate”.

I can’t see this as anything else but an attempt to mislead voters into confusing Liberals for Climate with the Liberal Party. It is an attempt to boost the party’s Legislative Council vote and manipulate the group voting ticket system still used in Western Australia.

The question is, will there be enough objection to this cynical name change, and strong enough legal argument against it, to prevent “Liberals for Climate” appearing on next year’s ballot papers?
Read More »What’s in a Party Name?