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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 2063..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

may have his or her vote rejected at the preliminary scrutiny if he or she fills out the postal vote forms incorrectly ...

The quote continues:

... the model to grant parties the right to solicit postal vote applications would arguably give parties an administrative role in the conduct of an election. The Commission cautions that this may not be seen to be appropriate, particularly if some electors are not able to vote because of delays or mistakes made by a party. The Commission is also concerned that some electors may confuse party applications with Electoral Commission applications, and be offended by receipt of unwanted party material.

There is also a very real issue about the privacy of voters, especially if they are giving out information that might indicate they will be away from Canberra on a polling day and that their home will be unoccupied. This information should be kept in strict confidence, and the proper authority to do that is the ACT Electoral Commission.

I would like to make it clear that this amendment does not prevent political parties from encouraging voters to vote. It is still possible for political parties to give people information about postal voting, support the voters' intention to do so and provide them with the appropriate forms. However, they then need to ensure that those forms specify that the postal vote information should be returned to an address specified by the Electoral Commissioner and not to a political party. They will still have the opportunity to support postal ballots in the ACT and to hand out that information. But the postal return address must be to the commissioner or to an address specified by the commissioner.

This amendment is about protecting the separation between campaigning in an election and the independent administration of the election by the Electoral Commission. It is essential that these two roles remain separate and that voters retain their trust that elections are administered independently and without political bias.

The Chief Minister in the in-principle stage put forward another objection to this amendment based on not wanting to confuse people about the difference between federal elections and ACT elections, when quite obviously there are many things that are different between the way that ACT elections are run and administered and the way that federal elections are run and administered. There is no problem with making this change in that sense. It is only a quite recent change to the ACT electoral system, and I think it is a change that has actually resulted in a bad outcome for voters and we should now prohibit political parties or other people encouraging people to send postal ballot information back to the political party or their registered office as opposed to making sure that information goes straight to the Electoral Commission.

MR STEFANIAK (10.59): As I indicated earlier, we will be supporting this amendment, which is consequential on Ms Dundas's second amendment to 16A. I think she has actually been quite erudite in stating the good reasons for it. Obviously there is nothing to stop a party giving a person an application to vote. I think it should go back to the actual Electoral Commission. It makes eminent sense, and I think there are some actual protections there for a party too in case something sort of goes wrong, which actually can lead to an offence. So we will be supporting that and the next amendment.

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