Loophole allows Liberal Democrats to Retain their Party Name

(7:15pm – this post has been updated to clarify some points of law.)

Last year Labor and the Coalition combined to pass legislation that prevented parties from having registered names that were too similar to those of already registered parties.

It was clear the target of the legislation was the Liberal Democratic Party. Last November, after applications by the Liberal and Labor Parties, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) gave notice that the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Labour Party would be de-registered if they did not change their names.

The full 3-person Australian Electoral Commission confirmed the original de-registration notice from November on 9 February., so the Liberal Democrats were de-registered under their existing name.

On 9 March the High Court upheld the new law by which the party had been de-registered. It looked like game, set and match for the Liberal Democrats.

But no, the Liberal Democrats are free to contest the 2022 election under the name Liberal Democrats despite the law and despite the High Court.

It all comes down to a clever loophole in the law that someone in the party spotted.
Read More »Loophole allows Liberal Democrats to Retain their Party Name

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

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