The (hungry) reality of an AEC count

Loretta Hassall writes: Re. “Long days, no pizza, widespread mistakes: election workers speak out” (Thursday). AEC workers this year got a very raw deal. Where I worked in Brisbane there was no tea or coffee all day or evening (unlike the last time), no food, apart from what we brought ourselves (this is customary), the hot water system in the church hall where the voting took place was busted and there was no electric jug, though we did have a fridge and toilets. Our team leader gave us plenty of breaks during and after lunch and we had enough workers, but it was a very long, hot day (7.30am till 10pm) and the pay was paltry, not to say pathetic.

Our team worked their butts off, even at the end of the evening when everyone was exhausted and had to move back rows of chairs and tables for the next day’s church service and clear electoral gear away, and this is usually the way. Everyone was supportive and friendly, especially the team leader. However, basic amenities such as milk, tea and coffee should have been supplied by the AEC in the form of an allowance to the team leader whose job it should be to check that they are available. Also, most of us, including the team leader, hadn’t been given the authorisation form we were supposed to submit on the day. It had simply not been sent to us. We were also short of ballot papers and had to adapt absentee votes by hand for the last few voters, which rather surprised them and the scutineers.

The House of Reps vote was counted quite easily and quickly after closing time, but counting the Senate vote was a shocker. We were given no material for compiling votes, so tiny piles of metre-long papers were held together with rubber bands after the initial count (all we had) all over tables and the floor, which made it impossible to read them later when piles had to be sorted. There were so many piles, we were walking on them to get to other piles. These piles were marked with bits of paper with biroed labels (torn bits of paper) that fell off when lifted for moving into boxes. Obviously no one at the AEC had given much thought to the mechanics of the Senate count. We needed paper clips, string, large clips for the bigger piles, proper labels — a kit that should have been pre-assembled by the AEC.

After sorting all the ballot papers, a very long, back-breaking process, we began a count. Votes for smaller parties both above and below the line couldn’t always be properly assigned, as papers got mislaid in rubber-banded roles or were overlooked in forgotten piles down the far end of the hall. Votes we thought were informal were eventually put together without thorough checking, as everyone was dog-tired. All the papers were packed away in boxes with everyone reassuring each other a correct count would be carried out later. Numbers didn’t tally with recorded votes, but there was nothing we could do. After tidying up, at 10pm we dragged ourselves to our cars and drove home, listening to politicians talking about the difficult election. Are we mad to put ourselves through this every few years? Probably. But instead of cutting budgets for elections, the government and the AEC should be thinking ahead, looking for improvements, encouraging feed-back and smoothing out problems, not relying on the good nature of underpaid voting officials to make it all work the best way they can.

Head in the cloud

Stephen Trowell writes: Re. “What internet overlord Apple is doing with your personal data” (yesterday). Richard Chirgwin writes: “If you have a pre-Mavericks version of Apples OS X desktop operating system, you could opt out of its cloud services and sync your various i-devices directly to your desktop or laptop. No more; the ordinary user, wanting to synch iPhone to laptop, can only do so by sending his or her data through the Apple cloud.”

I don’t think this is true.  I have Mavericks and it continues to offer the choice of synching iPhone or iPad to my laptop rather than iCloud.

Why you can’t trust the spies

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “The logical conclusion of spying” (yesterday). Robyn Godbehere Tully is missing the point. The spying scandal is not about phone taps “put to good use” against terrorists by police operating within a “jurisdiction”. It is about unaccountable, unregulated, and unlimited surveillance on a global scale by shadowy intelligence agencies.

To have confidence about this, we need to trust not just the governments involved, but all the personnel involved. That is impossible.

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Peter Fray
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