Year in review

AEC overview

Report on performance: Outcome 1

Report on performance: Outcome 2

Report on performance: Outcome 3

Management and accountability

Financial performance and future operations



Output 1.1.1 - Electoral roll management

Updated: 21 December 2010

The AEC maintains and reviews the electoral roll to ensure that it is accurate and up to date for the conduct of elections.

It also provides accurate and appropriate electoral roll products to eligible people and organisations.


One of the AEC's functions under the Electoral Act is to manage the electoral roll – the record of people entitled to vote at federal, state and territory and local government elections.

Managing the roll involves:

  • preparing, maintaining and revising the electoral roll used for federal elections
  • maintaining the electoral rolls for state, territory and local government elections through joint roll arrangements
  • making the electoral roll available for public inspection
  • providing roll products and services to authorities, people and organisations as specified under provisions of the Electoral Act.

Table 4 summarises the AEC's results against the performance information set out for Output 1.1.1 in the 2008–09 Portfolio Budget Statements.

Table 4 Output 1.1.1 – Electoral roll management: performance results
Key performance indicators Targets Results
Proportion of eligible people on the electoral roll 95% 91.9% of eligible people were on the electoral roll at 30 June 2009.
Accurate and timely enrolment processing 99.5% of enrolment transactions correctly processed

99% processed within three business days
99.5% of enrolment transactions were correctly processed.

This target was generally met; however, some enrolment forms required additional investigation which resulted in processing taking longer than three days.
Accurate and timely provision of roll products At least 98% of products accurate

At least 98% of products delivered by agreed deadline
The accuracy of products delivered was greater than 98%.

More than 98% of delivery deadlines were met.
Engaging with electors through the enhanced use of technology Those eligible to enrol have enhanced capability to access certain enrolment services electronically by 30 June 2009 The AEC is delivering services electronically where it is able to do so under the Electoral Act. The enrolment SmartForm will be operational by September 2009.


Managing the electoral roll

The AEC's aim in managing the electoral roll is to ensure that all Australians who are eligible to vote are able to do so. Success in meeting this aim depends on encouraging eligible electors to enrol and helping those electors who are on the roll to maintain their enrolment.

Size of the electoral roll

At 30 June 2009, 13 892 562 electors were enrolled to vote, which is an estimated voter participation rate of 91.9 percent. The number enrolled at 30 June 2009 was an increase of 0.9 percent from the 13 762 570 electors enrolled at 30 June 2008.

While the number of electors on the roll continues to increase, the Australian population is growing at a faster rate than the electoral roll. As a consequence, the overall participation rate has declined.

The participation rate is based on an estimate of the total number of people eligible to enrol, which is calculated using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics population census. Figure 4 shows the number of electors enrolled and the participation rate for each year since the 2004 federal election.

This figure shows that:

  • Although the participation rate has improved since 30 June 2006, the AEC has yet to achieve its target participation rate of 95 percent.
  • The participation rate historically drops in the years immediately after a federal election, when there is an apparent decline in eligible elector's motivation to enrol and to maintain correct enrolment.
  • The size of the electoral roll has increased since the 2004 election and the 2007 election.

To achieve the target of 95 percent participation by 30 June 2010, the AEC estimates that more than 700 000 new electors would need to be added to the electoral roll. The AEC also estimates that 1.2 million Australians eligible to enrol are currently missing from the electoral roll. The case study on page 40 describes the special efforts the AEC is making to identify those eligible Australians and encourage them to enrol.

Figure 4: Size of the electoral roll and estimated participation rate, October 2004 to June 2009

Figure 4 Size of the electoral roll and estimated participation rate, October 2004 to June 2009

Enrolment activity

In 2008–09, the AEC processed 1 993 073 transactions concerning electors' enrolment details. Most enrolment activity involves changing enrolment details when electors provide new information either without prompting or in response to AEC checks. As Figure 5 shows, changing enrolment details has consistently been more than half of the AEC's roll management workload for each of the past five years.

Table 5 summarises enrolment activity during 2008–09 for the types of transactions presented in Figure 5, as well as by state and territory. Overall, there was a decrease of 21.6 per cent in the number of transactions processed, compared to 2007–08. A decrease in activity was expected, as the number of transactions processed in 2007–08 was relatively high due to the federal election held in November 2007.

Sources of enrolment transactions

Table 6 shows the top 10 sources of enrolment transactions, together with a breakdown of three specific types of enrolment transactions which add people to the electoral roll or help to keep them on the roll.

Enrolment forms can be supplied by the AEC or obtained by the elector. As shown in Table 6, forms directly distributed by the AEC as part of mail review activity, issued in the lead-up to a state or territory election or collected by electors from a post office were the most common sources of completed enrolment transactions in 2008–09.

The offices of government agencies such as Medicare and Centrelink also make enrolment forms available. During 2008–09, 0.3 per cent of new enrolments and 1.2 per cent of changes to electors' details were made using enrolment forms obtained from the offices of a government agency.

Continuous Roll Update

Under the Continuous Roll Update (CRU) program, the AEC uses a number of methods to ensure that the electoral roll stays accurate and current, and to ensure that electors do not lose their entitlement to vote as a result of incorrect details being recorded on the roll.

Mail review – the main component of the CRU program – produces more enrolment forms than any other AEC roll management activity. Detailed analysis of monthly mail review activities since 2005 indicates that this method had been most effective at tracking movement of electors. Table 6 indicates that, in 2008–09, mail review was the single most significant source of roll growth.

The AEC piloted a number of targeted mail review activities in 2008–09, using existing external data sources in new ways to target particular groups. The targeting of 17 to 19- year-olds not enrolled, using national licence data and Centrelink data, resulted in 25 000 new enrolments from this age group. The AEC will continue to analyse the results of mailing activities and its use of data sources to inform its mailing strategy during 2009–10, with the aim of continuing to grow the roll.

Figure 5: Components of enrolment activity, 2004–05 to 2008–09

Figure 5: Components of enrolment activity, 2004-05 to 2008-09

Note: The enrolment activities presented in this figure are:

  • new enrolments – additions to the electoral roll of individuals who have become eligible to enrol and who have not previously been on the electoral roll
  • re-enrolments – additions to the electoral roll of individuals who have previously been removed from the roll
  • change in enrolment details – alterations to an individual's details as a result of an intrastate, interstate or intra-division amendment or movement
  • no change to enrolment details – an individual has returned an enrolment form, but their enrolment details do not need to be altered
  • objections – removals of individuals from the electoral roll on the basis that they do not live at their enrolled address or no longer have an entitlement to be enrolled
  • deaths – removals of the names of people who have died.

The following have not been included in this figure as they make up less than 1 percent of enrolment activity in any given year:

  • duplications – deletion of enrolment details from the electoral roll where an individual is enrolled more than once
  • cancellations – removals of individuals from the electoral roll who have not maintained their eligibility status for enrolment under the Electoral Act
  • re-instatements – addition to the electoral roll of an individual who was deleted in error while still entitled to be on the roll.
Table 5 Enrolment activity, 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009
  NSW Vic. Qld WA SA Tas. ACT NT Total
Total elector transactions 573 046 423 018 484 637 254 531 150 083 51 750 37 659 18 349 1 993 073
Additions to the roll
New enrolments 115 936 73 055 75 083 38 391 24 256 7 265 6 210 2 230 342 426
Reinstatements 458 235 279 196 206 46 34 13 1 467
Re-enrolments 21 935 10 969 25 520 14 065 4 643 2 642 1 963 1 019 82 756
Intrastate 122 384 103 936 119 102 61 701 27 327 6 339 2 666 1 228 444 683
Interstate 26 401 19 294 34 378 12 429 7 321 5 146 7 823 4 751 117 543
Intra-division amendment or movement 158 364 125 465 154 526 70 708 50 517 19 485 12 816 6 251 598 132
No change enrolment 37 114 33 065 22 635 28 413 15 488 2 929 2 178 1 093 142 915
Total enrolment transactions processed 482 592 366 019 431 523 225 903 129 758 43 852 33 690 16 585 1 729 922
Deletions from the roll
Objections 50 192 25 976 32 262 19 055 9 828 4 138 2 324 964 144 739
Deaths 38 030 28 030 20 266 9 250 10 323 3 593 1 441 746 111 679
Duplications 754 469 558 316 117 66 47 54 2 381
Cancellation 1 478 2 524 28 7 57 101 157 0 4 352
Total deletions processed 90 454 56 999 53 114 28 628 20 325 7 898 3 969 1 764 263 151

Note: National and state/territory totals for enrolment activity are subject to minor statistical adjustment and will show minor differences from gazetted enrolment details. The figures above include new enrolments and changes to enrolment for 17-year-olds.

Table 6 Top 10 sources of enrolment transactions, 2008–09
  All enrolment forms Change in enrolment details New enrolments Re-enrolment
Mail review 497 153 340 117 129 657 27 379
State election 229 761 182 682 30 812 16 267
Post office 211 133 189 775 15 116  
Internet 138 470 124 264 8 207 5 999
Division/state office 124 228 109 925 7 894 6 409
Non-response fieldwork a 91 325 62 060 18 462 10 803
Transport authorities 69 474 66 280 1 461 1 733
Citizenship ceremonies 66 029 2 959 62 757 313
Birthday cards 31 209 1 528 29 655 26
Enrol to Vote Week 21 053 1 368 19 654 31
Total 1 479 835 1 080 958 323 675 75 202

a Non-response fieldwork relates to AEC officer visits to addresses of electors who do not respond to mail.

Note: The transactions include new enrolments and changes to enrolment for 17-year-olds.

Other actions during the year to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the AEC's activities to encourage electors to maintain their enrolment included:

  • identifying new addresses for electors who may be objected off the roll and the mailing of pre-objection letters – more than 40 per cent of electors contacted in this way updated their enrolment and were not removed from the roll
  • refining processes for mailings to vacated addresses, to distinguish recently vacated addresses from long-term (vacant for more than 12 months) and non-responding vacant addresses – the response rate for vacant address mailings increased by 50 percent.

Roll quality

The AEC periodically undertakes sample audit fieldwork to measure the effectiveness of mail review activities. In 2009, sample audit fieldwork was undertaken in the second half of February, but was not conducted in Victoria due to the severity of bushfires in certain areas.

Based on advice from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the AEC decided that the entire state of Victoria should be removed from the audit as removing only selected areas within a state would affect the statistical validity of the results. The data collected from this sample audit fieldwork was being analysed in June 2009. The AEC will review the method and reporting framework for sample audit fieldwork in 2009–10.

Improving the enrolment of newly eligible electors

The AEC added 342 426 new enrolments to the electoral roll in 2008–09. The AEC specifically targets activities towards enrolling 18 to 25-year-olds and new citizens. However, the challenge is then to ensure that these electors maintain the currency of their enrolment. Table 7 shows that, in 2008–09, the AEC's target for enrolment of young voters was met, but the target for enrolment of new citizens was not met.

Table 7 Performance targets and results for 18 to 25-year-olds and new citizens, 2008–09
Targets Results
80% of 18 to 25-year-olds are enrolled to vote 81% of 18 to 25-year-olds were enrolled to vote at 30 June 2009
95% of new citizens are enrolled within three months of becoming citizens 92% of new citizens were enrolled within three months of becoming citizens

Figure 6: Target and actual participation rate for 18 to 25-year-olds, 2004–05 to 2008–09

Figure 6: Target and actual participation rate for 18 to 25-year-olds, 2004-05 to 2008-09

Table 8 Top 10 sources of new enrolments and changes to enrolment details for 18 to 25-year-olds, 2008–09
New enrolment Change in enrolment details
Mail review 63 887 Mail review 56 915
State election 16 853 State election 36 928
Birthday cards 16 651 Post office 28 620
Post office 12 260 Internet 27 678
Non-response fieldwork a 10 231 Division/state office 16 071
Citizenship ceremonies 7 704 Transport authorities 15 965
Internet 6 370 Non-response fieldwork a 15 204
Division/state office 4 878 Medicare 1 754
Enrol to Vote Week 4 496 Proof of Identity Acknowledgement Enrolment Forms 1 571
School/community visit 1 514 Response to Targeted Enrolment Stimulation or pre-objection mailings in 2007 1 532
Total 144 844 Total 202 238

a Non-response fieldwork relates to AEC visits to addresses of electors who do not respond to mail.

Youth enrolment

Figure 6 shows that the AEC achieved the target participation rate for 18 to 25-year-olds in four of the past five years, although there was a small decrease in 2008–09.

In part, this level of participation results from a range of AEC activities aimed at encouraging 18 to 25-year-olds to enrol, details of which can be found in the report on performance for Output 3. Examples include Enrol to Vote Week and birthday cards, which contributed significantly to the number of new enrolments in 2008–09, as shown in Table 6. Table 8 shows the top 10 sources of new enrolments and changes to enrolment details for young voters during 2008–09.

Youth Electoral Study

The Youth Electoral Study (YES) commenced in 2003. The AEC, along with the Australian Research Council, funded research to explore why young people (aged 17 to 24) do, or do not, enrol to vote. Findings from the studies undertaken by the Australian National University and University of Sydney are used to help inform the AEC's youth strategies. The fifth YES report, Youth, Schools and Learning about Politics, will be released in July 2009.

New citizens

The AEC's primary avenue to encourage new citizens to enrol is the citizenship ceremony. AEC staff in all states and territories attend citizenship ceremonies to provide electoral information and assist with the completion of enrolment forms. Each new citizen is given an enrolment form which has been pre-filled with their personal details. They can return their completed forms immediately through the AEC staff member or the local council representative at the ceremony.

Figure 7 shows the proportion of the forms distributed at citizenship ceremonies that were returned within three months of distribution. Over the past five years, the AEC has not met the target rate for enrolments of new Australian citizens within three months of their taking up citizenship. However, the AEC has enrolled 92 per cent of this group within three months of their becoming eligible to enrol.

In its Report on the conduct of the 2007 federal election and matters related thereto, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters recommends amending the Electoral Act:
to allow that a person who makes an application to become an Australian citizen in accordance with the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, be provisionally enrolled on the Commonwealth Electoral roll at the time of making the application for citizenship, where they provide proactive and specific consent to opt in, with voting entitlement gained automatically once Australian citizenship has been granted.

During 2009–10, the AEC will investigate how this recommendation to provide automatic enrolment for new citizens could be implemented if the amendment was made, as part of the AEC's strategy to ensure that all Australians who are eligible to vote are able to do so.

Encouraging enrolment

The AEC is improving its understanding of the Australian population, to better target its activities to encourage eligible electors to enrol and maintain their enrolment.

The AEC is also investigating ways to make it easier for members of the public to interact with the AEC. This includes additional means of enrolment that take advantage of modern technology, in line with community expectations.

Figure 7: Target and actual rate of new citizens enrolling within three months of attending a citizenship ceremony, 2004–05 to 2008–09

Figure 7: Target and actual rate of new citizens enrolling within three months of attending a citizenship
ceremony, 2004–05 to 2008–09

As a first step, the AEC is moving towards the use of SmartForms for enrolment. An elector would fill out a form on the AEC website and submit it electronically through a secure channel. After also printing and signing the form to fulfil the signature requirement stipulated in the Electoral Act, the elector would post the form to the AEC. The AEC would then scan a barcode on the form, connecting the hard copy with the electronic details already submitted, to automatically call up the information entered by the elector. The enrolment SmartForm is scheduled for release by September 2009.

In its Report on the conduct of the 2007 federal election and matters related thereto, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters recommends amending the Electoral Act:
to allow for the creation, implementation and maintenance of an enrolment website designed to facilitate the receipt and use of information provided electronically by enrolled electors, in order to update the electoral roll.

During 2009–10, the AEC will investigate how such a website could be implemented if the amendment was made, as part of the AEC's strategy to facilitate electronic interactions with electors already on the roll.

Table 9 Additional performance results for roll products and services
Measures   Targets Results
Quality Accuracy in products delivered Greater than 98% The accuracy of products delivered was greater than 98%.
Delivery deadlines achieved Greater than 98% More than 98% of delivery deadlines were met.
Quantity Proportion of ordered products supplied 100% 100% of all electoral roll products requested in accordance with legislative provisions were supplied.

Delivering roll products and services

Under provisions of the Electoral Act and, where relevant, the joint roll arrangements between the AEC and its state and territory counterparts, the AEC provides a range of products and services based on information in the electoral roll. Table 9 shows that the AEC succeeded in meeting the quality and quantity targets it set for the delivery of products and services in 2008–09.

Electronic roll

The AEC produces an electronic roll, updated daily, which is accessible to the general public. People may inspect this roll at the AEC office in any federal division or check their own enrolment details online through the AEC website, using the online enrolment verification facility. During 2008–09, this facility received more than 26.8 million hits.

Roll products for elections and redistributions

The AEC provided data from the electoral roll for more than 100 electoral events conducted during 2008–09, specifically:

  • by-elections held in the federal divisions of Lyne and Mayo on 6 September 2008 (see the report on performance for Output 2.1.1)
  • state elections held in Western Australia on 6 September 2008 and in Queensland on 21 March 2009
  • elections held for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly on 9 August 2008 and the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly on 18 October 2008
  • local government elections held in New South Wales on 13 September 2008 and in Victoria throughout November 2008, and the local government shire elections held in the Northern Territory on 25 October 2008
  • the Western Australian state referendum on daylight saving held on 16 May 2009
  • 64 state and local government by-elections.

Electoral roll products were also provided for redistributions, including the federal redistributions conducted in Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory; state redistributions in Queensland and Tasmania; redistributions for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly; and redistributions for the Northern Territory local government shires.

Other roll products

Subject to legislative restrictions governing access to, use and disclosure of electoral roll data, the AEC may provide particular electoral roll products to:

  • federal parliamentarians (members and senators)
  • political parties
  • state and territory electoral offices ('joint roll partners')
  • Australian Government departments and agencies
  • medical researchers
  • commercial companies
  • the public.

The AEC provided more than 400 products to the state and territory electoral authorities under joint roll arrangements during 2008–09.

Table 10 compares the numbers of electoral roll products the AEC provided to selected recipients in 2007–08 and 2008–09. The total increased in 2008–09, although there was a slight decrease in the number of medical researchers and conductors of health screening surveys seeking data from the electoral roll.

Table 10 Numbers of electoral roll products provided to selected recipients, 2007–08 and 2008–09
Recipient of electoral roll information 2007–08 2008–09
Medical researchers and those conducting health screening surveys 43 36
Prescribed authorities under Schedule 1 of the Electoral and Referendum Regulations 1940 60 62
Prescribed authorities under Regulation 7 of the Electoral and Referendum Regulations 1940 11 15
Members of the House of Representatives and senators 1 919 2 043
Federally registered political parties 259 296
Total 2 292 2 452

Appendix F provides further information on legislative entitlements to access roll products; organisations and individuals that received roll products; and, where appropriate, the products provided and the frequency of provision.

Electoral roll products were also provided to members of the public and government agencies, including the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In those cases, the data provided was statistical or included only addresses.


GENESIS (general enrolment, elections support and information system) is a major program currently focusing on upgrading the Roll Management System. The project aims to modernise IT applications; streamline manual processing (including by automating processes); and position the AEC to support its roll management function into the future.

During 2008–09, the software for ordinary enrolment applications was developed, including a feature to provide for submission of enrolment applications via the internet using SmartForms, and testing of the software commenced. The first release of core application software will take place in July 2009. Enrolment SmartForms are scheduled for release by September 2009.

Case study: Efforts to identify and enrol 1.2 million missing voters

The AEC estimates that around 1.2 million Australians who are eligible to vote are currently not on the electoral roll, and therefore are not able to vote or participate in federal, state and local government elections. The AEC is stepping up its efforts to find these missing Australians and encourage them to enrol to vote.

in April 2009, more than 550 000 personally addressed letters were mailed to locations across the country to where the AEC, based on data matching with national driver's licence data, thought some of the Australians who are missing from the electoral roll might be living. This was an extension of the AEC's regular mailing activities, conducted as part of the Continuous Roll update (CRu) program, to contact voters whose enrolment details may not be up to date.

Preliminary analysis of the response rates to this mailing activity indicates that, in addition to generating new enrolments and prompting some electors to update their enrolment details, the AEC has been able to identify a number of people for whom it will take no further action. These people may no longer be eligible under the Electoral Act to be on the roll. More detailed analysis of the response rates will be used by the AEC to inform future activities directed at enrolling the missing 1.2 million Australians.

A range of research is currently underway to identify, as accurately as possible, the characteristics of the Australians who are eligible but not enrolled to vote. For example, early research results indicate that, while the age of an individual is a major indicator for whether they are enrolled, the age group of the missing contingent may be wider than the frequently discussed 'youth' demographic of 18–25 years of age.

The AEC will conduct close and detailed examination of the research results as a starting point for developing and implementing ways to contact individuals and encourage them to enrol. These activities will form part of the implementation of the AEC's National Roll Management Strategy and the development of the Direct Elector Contact Strategy, which seek to incorporate use of direct telephone, SMS and email to contact electors as a means to modernise the CRU program.

The AEC's success in contacting the missing 1.2 million Australians and encouraging them to enrol to vote will be reported on in the 2009–10 Annual Report.