Now this is interesting timing. A rumour reaches Crikey that Australia
Post is keen to take over the administration of the electoral roll –
but first, some comments from Antony Green on recent electoral
procedure reporting in the Crikey Daily:
The AEC report on incorrect enrolments is interesting. In
Britain, many people’s electoral enrolment is changed by local
government authorities when they become aware of people having moved,
rather than people having to change enrolment themselves. When students
move into UK university residencies, it is the university that can
initiate change of enrolment with the local government authority rather
than the student themselves. There is none of this young people leaving
their enrolments back at Mum and Dad’s house as occurs in
One solution in Australia is to use utilities to update electoral
enrolment action. When people move and change the gas, phone and
electricity accounts, or when people move and ask Australia Post to
forward their mail, the forms involved should ask whether the family
wish the Electoral Commission to forward new enrolment forms.
One reason why this can’t be done is that you must live at an address
for a month before going on the roll, which means the utility changes
are done a month before you become entitled to vote at an address.
However, it should not be beyond the wit of government to use this
method to catch that 10 per cent of people who do not promptly change
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Indeed it is, Antony, if our mole is right. An electoral insider tells
Crikey that Australia Post – possibly with support from the Government
– is keen to take over responsibility for maintaining the electoral
roll from the AEC.
This isn’t far fetched. In fact, it makes sense. Most people get their
electoral enrolment forms from post offices. Exactly the same scheme
operates across the Tasman, where NZ Post maintains the electoral
The Government intends to reintroduce changes to new enrolment
procedures later this year, after the magic July 1. The Senate changes
mean it should come as any surprise that major new roll announcements
may now also be on the agenda.
What complicates matters in Australia is the existence of the states.
Special Minister of State Eric Abetz had already crossed swords with
the state and territory Labor governments over roll arrangements.
If the states do not agree to toughen enrolment rules, we may end up
with two classes of voters – some on state rolls, but denied a federal
franchise. There are enormous ethical, let alone administrative, issues
here. Minor discrepancies already exist between state and federal
rolls, but the commonwealth government’s proposed changes may make the
If the states drop out of the current joint roll agreement over
enrolment restrictions, the Commonwealth can still hand the national
roll to Australia Post – but applying to vote will become messy. There
will be two different forms to complete, to begin with. That will
obviously affect participation in democracy. Or doesn’t that worry
Commonwealth hardliners? Do they just want to push on with their plans
for a voluntary voting system that they think will tilt elections in