Was there another story behind this yarn in The Australian on Friday about electoral roll errors?
More than 10% of voters on the nation’s electoral rolls are listed with the wrong address.
survey by the Australian Electoral Commission – the first of its kind –
which investigated the electorate of Isaacs in Melbourne’s outer
south-eastern suburbs, found enrolment accuracy in the area was 89.17%.
Enrolment accuracy is the percentage of voters who are enrolled at the address where they are in fact living.
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Minister of State Eric Abetz said the results highlighted the need for
improvement in the accuracy of the electoral rolls…
Abetz was out flying other kites at the end of last week, trying to increase the
amount individuals and businesses can donate to political parties
without needing to complete declaration forms – kites that got pulled
in over the weekend.
Some poll watchers say the Isaacs claims
are old news. The Electoral Committee explains how the rolls will
always be wrong at any one point in time in one of its Electoral Backgrounders
as “People continuously transfer their addresses and do not necessarily
advise the AEC before the rolls are closed for an election. The rolls
for an election can never be completely correct…”
A 10% error
rate, insiders say, is not unusual. It simply means people are on the
move and haven’t yet notified the AEC yet. Some divisions have more
mobile populations than others, too – as census data will demonstrate.
Electoral rolls will always contain some errors, but their accuracy
improves considerably around election time as people rush to update
a suspicion that this is tied up with the Government’s electoral law
reform agenda. Election observers scoff at Government claims that they
must change legislation to close the rolls immediately on the
announcement of an election instead of leaving the rolls open for a
seven day grace period, which has been the case since Malcolm Fraser
closed the rolls early in 1983 and was widely condemned for denying
many people the right to vote. Technology has let rolls become
considerably more accurate since then, and the grace period only helps
matters by letting voters correct their details.
claim that rather than cleaning up rolls, the Government’s allegations
of electoral fraud during this window are a stalking horse to arrange
the system in way where they think they’ll be the winners. They have a
point. How do you organise a couple of hundred crazed fraudsters during
the short period of the close of rolls – when you don’t know when an
election is going to be called? Let’s give the AEC the final word here,
from the backgrounder again:
“Allegations of electoral fraud are
frequently accompanied by claims that the electoral system should be
“tightened up” by requiring identification at enrolment and voting. It
is often said, for example, that it is easier to enrol to vote than it
is to register at a video store. However, it is essential that the
electoral system not be made so difficult to access that citizens are
prevented from delivering on their legal responsibilities, and thereby
risk being penalised. This is a serious issue for many electors,
particularly those living in remote areas of Australia, as well as the
indigent, the itinerant and the illiterate, for example, who may not be
able to easily produce identification documents, or find a suitable
official witness, or simply walk down to the local school to cast their
vote on a Saturday.
“That is, in an electoral system where
enrolment and voting are legal responsibilities carrying the threat of
penalties for any failure to comply, the law must strike a sensible
balance between making the system so easy to access that concerns are
raised about the potential for electoral fraud, and making the system
so difficult to access that some citizens find themselves unable to
discharge their legal responsibilities, through no fault of their own,
and face penalties accordingly.”