If you’re an organisation that’s vital to democracy and carrying out a specific
task, you’d put staff on to it, right? Er… Not if you’re the Australian
Electoral Commission. A punter writes:

A few weeks ago I received a letter from the AEC addressed
to my previous residential address (a few hundred metres from my old
address) which had made its way to me thanks to an Australia Post
re-direction contract.

The letter ‘signed’ by XYZ of the ABC Electorate informed me that I was
struck off the roll for failing to contact the AEC within 21 days of
another letter they say they sent me.

That’s fair enough I figured, though I was disappointed that Australia
Post had failed to fulfil our contract by not re-directing the AEC’s
first letter to me. So I looked for the ‘what to do now’ advice in
this letter from the AEC’s XYZ. There was no such advice, but there was
a contact phone number. I called the number.

‘Hello, could I please speak with XYZ about a letter they sent me?’, I asked.

‘I’m sorry, XYZ is not in today,’ the AEC officer replied.

‘OK, could I please speak with someone else for the Electorate of ABC?’, I asked.

‘I’m sorry, that office is closed for this week,’ I was told, ‘Can I help you?’

I explained the situation and sought direction as to how to get back on
the roll. Feeling cut out of the Australian polity was beginning to
cause me some anxiety, and I wanted my entitlement to vote back ASAP.
Put it writing I was told. So I did. And then put it straight in the
big red Post Box outside the Australia Post office.

I left it a few days, a weekend, and a few more work days then called
the AEC to see if they’d received my letter (and having paid for number
portability from Telstra I wished they’d just do what I was doing –
make a simple cheap phone call, instead of writing letters and striking
me off the roll in the first place).

‘Hello, could I please speak with someone for the Electorate of ABC?’, I asked.

‘I’m sorry, that office is closed for this week’, said the AEC person that answered this time around.

And this time I took a different approach and got chatting with this
much more helpful AEC staffer. They revealed that the AEC regularly
closes Division offices for lack of staff. That they were doing massive
mail-outs to clean up the rolls, but it hadn’t occurred to them to
ensure extra staffing to handle the re-enrolment processes. That my
mailed correspondence had not yet reached the AEC, because it had to be
re-directed. And finally they shared how to check on-line to see if had
been received and processed, thus avoiding making calls.

I followed this helpful AEC chap’s advice today, at least ten working
days since I first posted the re-enrolment paperwork and (no surprise)
I’m still not back on the roll. I called the AEC to see what could be
going on. I was automatically transferred to the Higgins Division
(closest to my office I guess) and, after confirming I’m still not back
on the roll, I obtained a direct line for the Division. I called it.

‘Hello, is this the Electorate of ABC?’, I asked with fingers crossed.

‘Yes, can I help you?’, came the reply. So I explained the situation,
had the mail record checked and… no they had not received my
correspondence because it had to be re-directed from the other office I
had been in contact with a week ago.

‘Would you like a fax number?’, the AEC officer asked.

The division in question, fortunately, is a safe seat and our
correspondent promises to tell us if they ever get back on the roll.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey