“Hundreds, if not thousands, of voters have failed to have their votes recorded in a move which could have changed the result in up to five seats,” the Daily Telegraph reports today.

Is this a sign of things to come at the federal election after last year’s changes to the Electoral Act? The Australian Electoral Commission, after all, manages the rolls.

“The culprit is believed to be a new computer program called I-Roll, which identifies enrolled voters as they present themselves at the ballot box rather than relying on an honour system,” the Telegraph says.

“[F]or the first time voters who may have been struck from the roll without realising it were told they were not enrolled. More troubling is that in previous elections they may have voted oblivious to the fact it was not being recorded.”

Yesterday, AAP carried comment from Premier Morris Iemma, who said there was a provision for such people to cast a “section vote” after election day.

However, a statement from the NSW Electoral Commission doesn’t give these people much hope. “There has been only a handful of instances of electors being incorrectly removed from the electoral roll,” the statement read.

“In the past, electors whose name were not on the printed roll at their polling place would often seek an absent vote for an address in another electoral district (where they believed they had previously been enrolled),” a commission spokesman said.

“Once it was discovered the person was not on the roll, the absentee vote they lodged would not be admitted to the count.

“Electors would not be aware that their vote had not been admitted and would be unaware that their enrolment details were incorrect or that they were not enrolled. The innovations introduced at last weekend’s election means we now have an immediate notification of whether a person is properly enrolled or not, and we can accurately inform electors of their status.”

One close observer of state and federal elections told Crikey that voters whose enrolment details were unclear were often given provisional or section votes “just to get rid of them”, but that their ballot frequently remained uncounted.

Will there be similar scenes across the country at the federal poll?

Are changes to enrolment provisions allegedly designed to prevent electoral fraud leave a lot of voters ripped off?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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