Australian Electoral Commission

Last updated

Australian Electoral Commission
Australian Electoral Commission logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed21 February 1984
Jurisdiction Commonwealth of Australia
Headquarters Canberra
Employees2,166 (as at April 2013) [1]
Minister responsible
Agency executives
  • Mr Tom Rogers, Electoral Commissioner
  • The Hon. Peter Heerey QC, Chairperson
  • Mr Brian Pink, Non-judicial member
Parent agency Department of Finance and Deregulation
Website www.aec.gov.au
Entrance to polling station run by the Australian Electoral Commission (2016 federal election) Polling station.jpg
Entrance to polling station run by the Australian Electoral Commission (2016 federal election)

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is the independent federal agency in charge of organising, conducting and supervising federal elections, by-elections and referendums.

Contents

States and territories

State and local government elections are overseen by separate Electoral Commissions in each state and territory, as follows:

Responsibilities

The AEC's main responsibility is to conduct federal elections, by-elections and referendums. The AEC is also responsible for the maintenance of an up-to-date electoral roll, electorate boundaries, apportionments and redistributions. Under the Joint Roll Arrangements, the AEC maintains the electoral roll for the whole of Australia, other than Western Australia, which is used by the state and territory Electoral Commissions to conduct their elections. The AEC publishes detailed election results and follows up electors who fail to vote.

The AEC is also responsible for registering political parties intending to field candidates at federal elections, monitoring the activities of those political parties, including receiving returns from parties of donations and expenditures, and the publication of the information. The AEC also plays an electoral education role, aiming to educate citizens about the electoral process by which representatives are elected, and by which the Australian Constitution is changed (referendums). It also plays a role in industrial voting (e.g., votes on industrial action).

Registration of political parties

The formal registration of political parties in Australia commenced in New South Wales in 1981 and 1984 for the Commonwealth. The AEC is required to maintain a register of political parties. [2] Such registration is required before a party can field candidates, receive public funding, have party identification on ballot papers and use above-the-line ticket voting. [3]

In all jurisdictions, conditions relating to a party name require party names to have a maximum of six words, not be obscene and not to resemble the name of another, unrelated party, be likely to cause confusion with another party nor contain the word ‘independent’ or ‘independent party’.

All Australian jurisdictions also have a minimum membership requirement, which differs widely, especially when compared with the total number of people enrolled in the jurisdiction. These range from 100 in the ACT and Tasmania, 500 for the Commonwealth and 750 in New South Wales. [3] Four jurisdictions require a fee for registration: $500 for the Commonwealth, Victoria and the Northern Territory; and $2,000 for New South Wales. [3]

Public funding of elections

Since 1984, Australian political parties have been publicly funded by the AEC. The objective of public funding is to reduce the influence of private money upon elections, and consequently, the influence of private money upon the shaping of public policy. After each election, the AEC distributes a set amount of money to each political party, per vote received. A candidate or Senate group needs 4% of the primary vote to be eligible for public funding. [4]

After the 2013 election, political parties and candidates received $58.1 million in election funding, with the funding rate being 248.800 cents per vote. The Liberal Party received $23.9 million, as part of the Coalition total of $27.2 million, while the Labor Party received $20.8 million. Other significant recipients were Australian Greens with $5.5 million, Palmer United Party with $2.3 million, and Liberal Democratic Party with $1.0 million. [5]

In 2016, $62.7 million was distributed, with the funding rate being 262.784 cents per vote. [4]

Electoral roll

One of the functions of the AEC is the maintenance of the electoral roll, which in some other countries are called electoral registers. In Australia voter registration is called "enrolment". The AEC maintains Australia's federal electoral roll, which is used for federal elections, by-elections and referendums. Australia has maintained a permanent federal electoral roll since 1908, and enrolment has been compulsory for federal elections since 1911. [6] The requirement to register then applied to “British subjects” over the age of 21.

Though each state and territory also has its own electoral commission or office, voters need to register only with the AEC, which shares the registration details with the relevant state electoral commission, except in the case of Western Australia, which maintains its own electoral roll. The federal roll also forms the basis of state (except in Western Australia) and local electoral rolls. [7]

AEC registration covers federal, state and local voter registration. In Australia and in each state and territory, it is a legal offence to fail to vote (or, at the very least, attend a polling station and have one's name crossed off the roll) at any federal or state election, punishable by a nominal fine. The amount varies between federal and state elections. (The fine for not voting is currently A$75.00 in Victoria. This figure is indexed at the beginning of every financial year.) Usually people are issued with warnings when it is found that they have not voted, and they are given an opportunity to show cause. Acceptable reasons for not voting may include being in the accident department of a hospital, being ill (requires confirmation), being out of the country on election day, religious objections, being incarcerated, etc. "I forgot" is not considered acceptable and will incur a fine. Section 245 of the Electoral Act (Cwth) provides that if an elector has been asked the "true reason" for his failure to vote states that he did not do so because it was against his religion, this statement shall be regarded as conclusive, and no further action will be taken.

Traditionally, voters cannot register within three weeks of an election. In 2004 the Howard government passed legislation that prevented registration after 8 pm on the day that the writs were issued (this can be up to 10 days after the election has been announced). [8] This legislation was considered controversial by some Australians who contended it disenfranchised first-time voters or those who have forgotten to update their enrolment. The law was repealed just before the 2010 federal election, after advocacy group GetUp! obtained a High Court ruling [9] that the changes were unconstitutional. [10] 16 and 17 year olds can provisionally enrol and are able to vote when they turn 18. [11]

History and structure

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902 [12] set up the framework for the Commonwealth electoral system, which was administered until 1916 as a branch of the Department of Home Affairs, then until 1928 by the Department of Home and Territories, back to Department of Home Affairs until 1932 and then Department of the Interior until 1972. The Australian Electoral Office was created in 1973 by the Australian Electoral Office Act 1973 . On 21 February 1984 the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) was established as a Commonwealth statutory authority.

The AEC is answerable to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters [13] of the Parliament of Australia, and must report on how elections were carried out and the success of elections in general.

The AEC was created by and operates under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 . It consists of a chairman (a Judge or a retired Judge of the Federal Court), the Electoral Commissioner and a non-judicial member (usually the Australian Statistician). The Electoral Commissioner has the powers of a Secretary of a Department under the Public Service Act 1999 and the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1998. The Chairperson and the third, non-judicial member both hold their offices on a part-time basis.

Each House of Representatives electorate has a Divisional Returning Officer responsible for administration of elections within the division. Each State also has an Australian Electoral Officer responsible for administration of Senate elections. The AEC has a National Office in Canberra and an office in each State and Territory: Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

Since the loss of 1,400 ballots during the recount for the 2013 Western Australia Senate election and the subsequent 2014 special election, the management of the AEC has been under significant scrutiny. [14]

List of Australian Electoral Commissioners

CommencedFinishedCommissioner
21 February 198426 November 1989 Colin Anfield Hughes
18 December 198920 December 1994Brian Field Cox
16 January 199514 January 2000 Wilfred James "Bill" Gray
23 March 20001 July 2005 Andrew Kingsley "Andy" Becker
2 July 200522 September 2008 Ian Campbell
5 January 20094 July 2014Ed Killesteyn [15]
15 Dec 2014PresentTom Rogers

See also

Notes

  1. Australian Public Service Commission (2 December 2013), State of the Service Report: State of the Service Series 2012-13 (PDF), Australian Public Service Commission, p. 253, archived from the original (PDF) on 6 December 2013
  2. COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL ACT 1918 - SECT 125
  3. 1 2 3 6. Registration of Political Parties, ANU Press
  4. 1 2 Election Funding Payments: 2016 Federal Election
  5. "AEC Finalises $58 Million Of Election Funding To Candidates In Federal Election". Australianpolitics.com. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  6. Events in Australian electoral history
  7. "Joint Rolls Arrangement between Commonwealth, State and Territories". Archived from the original on 20 January 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  8. Australian Electoral Commission. "Deadlines for enrolling to vote for federal elections" . Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  9. Rowe v Electoral Commissioner , [2010] HCA 46; (2010) 243 CLR 1
  10. ABC News Australia. "High Court upholds GetUp! case" . Retrieved 20 August 2010.
  11. "Enrolment – Frequently Asked Questions". Australian Electoral Commission.
  12. Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902
  13. "Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters - Parliament of Australia". Aph.gov.au. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  14. Matthew Knott (30 May 2014). "AFP to investigate thousands of cases of multiple voting in 2013 election". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  15. "Media Release: Appointment of the Electoral Commissioner". Special Minister of State. 12 April 2013.

Related Research Articles

Electoral system of Australia

The Australian electoral system comprises the laws and processes used for the election of members of the Australian Parliament. The system presently has a number of distinctive features including compulsory enrolment, compulsory voting, majority-preferential instant-runoff voting in single-member seats to elect the lower house, the House of Representatives, and the use of the single transferable vote proportional representation system to elect the upper house, the Senate.

Electoral systems of the Australian states and territories

Electoral systems for the legislatures of the individual Australian states and territories are broadly similar to the electoral system used in federal elections in Australia.

Electoral Commission (United Kingdom) an independent body set up by the UK Parliament

The Electoral Commission is the election commission of the United Kingdom. It is an independent body, set up in 2001 by the British Parliament. It regulates party and election finance and sets standards for how elections should be run.

Elections in the United States Political elections for public offices in the United States

Elections in the United States are held for government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. At the federal level, the nation's head of state, the president, is elected indirectly by the people of each state, through an Electoral College. Today, these electors almost always vote with the popular vote of their state. All members of the federal legislature, the Congress, are directly elected by the people of each state. There are many elected offices at state level, each state having at least an elective governor and legislature. There are also elected offices at the local level, in counties, cities, towns, townships, boroughs, and villages; as well as for special districts and school districts which may transcend county and municipal boundaries. According to a study by political scientist Jennifer Lawless, there were 519,682 elected officials in the United States as of 2012.

Elections in Australia discussion of elections conducted in Australia

Elections in Australia take place periodically to elect the legislature of the Commonwealth of Australia, as well as for each Australian state and territory. Elections in all jurisdictions follow similar principles, though there are minor variations between them. The elections for the Australian Parliament are held under the federal electoral system, which is uniform throughout the country, and the elections for state and territory Parliaments are held under the electoral system of each state and territory.

Voter registration is the requirement that a person otherwise eligible to vote register on an electoral roll before they will be entitled or permitted to vote. Such enrollment may be automatic or may require application being made by the eligible voter. The rules governing registration vary between jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions have "election day registration" and others do not require registration, or may require production of evidence of entitlement to vote at time of voting. In some jurisdictions registration by those of voting age is compulsory, while in most it is optional. In jurisdictions where registration is voluntary, an effort may be made to encourage persons otherwise eligible to vote to register, in what is called as a voter registration drive.

The Victorian Electoral Commission, or VEC, is the government agency responsible for the running of state, municipal and various non-government elections in Victoria, Australia.

Elections in Barbados

Elections in Barbados is the process of conducting general elections or by-elections and formulating election results in Barbados. An election is a process in which a vote is held to democratically elect national candidates to an office. In the case of Barbados, it is the mechanism by which the electors choose members to fill elective offices in the House of Assembly. Elections are held on Election Day. These general elections do not have fixed dates, but must be called within five years of the opening of parliament following the last election. A former minister of the DLP, Warwick Franklin summed up the general elections process in Barbados as saying it is really just, "30 by-elections on the same day."

The electoral roll is a list of persons who are eligible to vote in a particular electoral district and who are registered to vote, if required in a particular jurisdiction. An electoral roll has a number of functions, especially to streamline voting on election day. Voter registration is also used to combat electoral fraud by enabling authorities to verify an applicant's identity and entitlement to a vote, and to ensure a person doesn't vote multiple times. In jurisdictions where voting is compulsory, the electoral roll is used to indicate who has failed to vote. Most jurisdictions maintain permanent electoral rolls while some jurisdictions compile new electoral rolls before each election. In some jurisdictions, people to be selected for jury or other civil duties are chosen from an electoral roll.

Outdoor Recreation Party

The Outdoor Recreation Party (ORP) was a minor political party originating in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. It professed to represent the outdoor community and interests such as cycling, bushwalking, camping, kayaking, 4WD motoring, skiing, fishing and shooting. It was formally allied with the Liberal Democratic Party.

Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 Act of the Parliament of Australia, currently registered as C2018C00259

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 is an Act of the Australian Parliament which continues to be the core legislation governing the conduct of elections in Australia, having been amended on numerous occasions since 1918. The Act was introduced by the Nationalist Party of Billy Hughes, the main purpose of which was to replace first-past-the-post voting with instant-runoff voting for the House of Representatives and the Senate.

In Australia, a redistribution is the process of redrawing the boundaries of electoral divisions to reflect changes in population and changes in the number of representatives. The Australian Electoral Commission, an independent statutory authority, oversees the redistribution process for federal elections, taking into account many factors. Politicians, political parties and the public may make submissions to the AEC on proposed new boundaries, but any interference with their deliberations is considered a serious offence.

The Non-Custodial Parents Party is a minor political party in Australia. The party has members in all states and territories of Australia. It supports less government control of many aspects of daily family life. In particular, it puts forward a number of policies seeking changes in the areas of family law and child support.

Court of Disputed Returns (Australia) Special electoral jurisdiction of the High Court of Australia

The Court of Disputed Returns in Australia is a special jurisdiction of the High Court of Australia. This jurisdiction was initially established by Part XVI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902 and is now contained in Part XXII of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The High Court sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns hears challenges regarding the validity of federal elections. The jurisdiction is twofold: (1) on a petition to the Court by an individual with a relevant interest or by the Australian Electoral Commission, or (2) on a reference by either house of the Commonwealth Parliament.

Online Direct Democracy

Online Direct Democracy – is a registered Australian political party. It was briefly named Climate Action! Immigration Action! Accountable Politicians! from January 2019 to September 2019, and had previously been known as Senator Online.

2010 Australian federal election general election

The 2010 Australian federal election was held on Saturday, 21 August 2010 to elect members of the 43rd Parliament of Australia. The incumbent centre-left Australian Labor Party led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard won a second term against the opposition centre-right Liberal Party of Australia led by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Coalition partner the National Party of Australia, led by Warren Truss, after Labor formed a minority government with the support of three independent MPs and one Australian Greens MP. As of 2020 this remains the last federal election victory for the Labor party.

<i>Rowe v Electoral Commissioner</i>

Rowe v Electoral Commissioner is a High Court of Australia case dealing with the requirement of the Australian Constitution that members of Parliament be "directly chosen by the people". The High Court held that Commonwealth legislation that sought to restrict the time in which a person may seek to enroll in an election or alter their enrolment details after the writs for an election have been issued was invalid.

<i>Getup Ltd v Electoral Commissioner</i>

Getup Ltd v Electoral Commissioner (2010) was a landmark decision made by the Federal Court of Australia on 13 August 2010 allowing Australians to enrol online in future elections. The Federal Court ruled in favour of GetUp! in their challenge of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, that rejected first-time voter, Sophie Trevitt’s electronic enrolment application after her electronic signature was deemed invalid.

Suffrage in Australia refers to the right to vote for people living in Australia, including all its six component states and territories, as well as local councils. The colonies of Australia began to grant universal male suffrage during the 1850s and women's suffrage followed between the 1890s and 1900s. Today, the right to vote at federal, state and local levels of government is enjoyed by all citizens of Australia over the age of 18 years.

Next Australian federal election Election for the 47th Parliament of Australia

The next Australian federal election will be held in or before 2022 to elect members of the 47th Parliament of Australia. All 151 seats in the House of Representatives and 40 of the 76 seats in the Senate will be up for election. The incumbent Liberal/National Coalition Government, currently led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, will be seeking a fourth three-year term against the Labor Opposition, currently led by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.