Page 1709 - Week 05 - Thursday, 8 May 2008

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voting is the most complex form of voting. Postal votes must be applied for, ballot material must be mailed to the elector and the elector must complete the ballot paper, complete the form, have the form witnessed by an eligible person and mail the ballot material back to the Electoral Commission. Postal votes must be in the mail before the close of the poll on polling day and must be received by the Electoral Commission no later than the Friday after polling day. If the elector claims a vote for the wrong electorate, or if the elector fails to sign the postal vote declaration, or if a witness fails to sign the postal vote declaration, the elector’s vote will be rejected from the count. If mailing delays prevent ballot material from arriving on time or at all, the person’s vote will not be counted.

These hurdles cause many electors to lose their votes. In 2004, for example, 223 postal votes were rejected because they were not signed by the elector or by the witness, many postal votes were rejected because the elector claimed a vote for the wrong electorate, 211 postal votes were received too late and 52 postal votes were returned to sender unclaimed. By contrast, a person casting a vote at a pre-poll voting centre is the most likely to cast an effective vote, particularly using the electronic voting system, which has been proven to reduce the number of mistakes made by electors on ballot papers. A person voting in a polling place is the least likely to cast a vote for the wrong electorate, as polling officials search all electoral rolls for each elector if they cannot be found on the electoral roll that the person expects to be on.

This amendment, therefore, is aimed at maximising the chances that a person’s vote will be counted by removing, from electors who are unable to attend a polling place on polling day but who are able to attend a pre-poll voting centre some time in the three weeks leading up to polling day, the right to cast a postal vote. The amendment is not intended to prevent people from applying for postal votes where they have mobility difficulties or where they are unable to leave their workplace or homes. The amendment will not affect people interstate or overseas during the election period. For these reasons, the government opposes Dr Foskey’s amendment.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (10.35): Very briefly, whilst I hear what the attorney says, people still do informal votes when they turn up and vote in a ballot box. Whilst there is a fair amount of merit in what the attorney says, postal votes have been an important part of our system and I am inclined to support Dr Foskey on this one.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (10.35): I will be brief also, but I also, for the reasons I outlined earlier, accord with the views that Dr Foskey put forward and Mr Stefaniak has echoed.

The theme that comes through in this report, as I indicated, is constantly one that, if there is a problem, you go down one road, rather than look at trying to rectify the situation by improvements to the system. If there are deficiencies because people forget to witness a particular postal application or there are other issues in terms of timeliness, much of that might be able to be addressed with the quality of documentation and the presentation of material that is issued by the Electoral Commission. I would have thought the challenge for the Electoral Commission would be to try and develop ways of improving that. They talk in their report about overseas people and, by making an earlier cut-off, they believe they have solved the problem

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