Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The 2008 election inquiry

The Justice and Electoral Committee has reported back [PDF] on its inquiry into the 2008 election. The inquiry is a standard part of the electoral cycle, a regular review to see how things went and whether any changes should be made. This year a lot of stuff - reform of the electoral agencies, the Electoral Finance Act - was off the table due to reviews already in process, and so they focused heavily on the electoral process. The most significant change they recommended was to remove the requirement for voters to establish grounds to vote in advance, a change which would allow much wider use of advance voting. The driver here is a massive increase in advance voting - 35% in the last electoral cycle - which they attribute to lifestyle changes and shifts in working patterns which mean it is no longer convenient for everyone to vote on a Saturday. The Chief Electoral office described it as people voting with their feet, and they want to support it. IMHO its a good suggestion, which will make voting more accessible to more people - a Good Thing in a democracy.

The Greens raised an interesting question about "authorised witnesses" - party hacks who are authorised by the returning officer to go round e.g. old-age homes on election day and witness and collect special votes. We have no information on these people, how they operate, or the number of votes they collect. None whatsoever. The Chief Electoral Office simply doesn't collect it. Given the obvious potential abuses here, its something there should be a lot more scrutiny of; our electoral system is too important to simply take it on trust.

One other interesting point is that the Electoral Enrolment Centre is working on plans to allow full online enrolment. This would make it much easier for young voters to enrol, and getting them to enrol is the key to getting them to participate. Its a good move, and hopefully it'll be ready for the next election.