Contents

Year in review

AEC overview

Report on performance: Outcome 1

Report on performance: Outcome 2

Report on performance: Outcome 3

Management and accountability

Appendices

References

Financial statements

Program 3.3 – Communication strategies and services

Updated: 25 November 2010

Provide timely and accurate electoral information to a range of target audiences, to encourage enrolment and participation in electoral events.

Overview

The AEC conducts public awareness campaigns to promote knowledge of, and participation in, the electoral process. The AEC also provides various information services, including the AEC website, telephone and email inquiry services, translating and interpreting services, publications, and the federal election call centre and virtual tally room.

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Performance

Table 33 summarises the AEC's results against the performance information set out for Program 3.3 in the 2009–10 Portfolio Budget Statements.

Table 33 Program 3.3 – Communication strategies and services: performance results
Key performance indicators Targets Results

Audience feedback on effectiveness of specific advertising campaigns and public awareness activities through surveys, market research, and stakeholder consultation

Response from audiences is positive

No independent research was commissioned during the reporting period.

Support materials and fieldwork program for the Indigenous Electoral Participation Program

Support materials developed and fieldwork program commenced

Program designed, staff selected and trained, support materials developed and field work commenced.

Communication activities

The AEC implemented communications activities focused on raising awareness of entitlements and obligations among eligible Australians who are not on the electoral roll, and encouraging those 'missing voters' to enrol. The activities included media releases, radio release excerpts, stakeholder communications and dedicated website content.

A stronger call to action was developed, along with more engaging design products, to appeal to young people and generate a sense of urgency and importance. This feature was used in postcards and on the AEC website.

Enrol to Vote Week

Enrol to Vote Week was held twice during 2009–10:

  • In 2009, Enrol to Vote Week was held from 27 July to 2 August, with the theme Enrolling to vote – something you don't have to wait until you're 18 to do. A total of 1 791 secondary schools and colleges registered to participate.
  • In 2010, Enrol to Vote Week was held earlier in the calendar year, to maximise the number of eligible students enrolled to vote at the 2010 federal election. Schools were able to run their events at any time in May, and the national media promotion was implemented over the week of 17–23 May. The theme was You never know when an election might be called, and 1 685 secondary schools and colleges registered to participate.

In total, more than 35 000 enrolment forms were generated by Enrol to Vote Week activities in 2009–10.

Media stimulation activities were undertaken to promote the events to schools and the broader community. This included using editorial and media releases to generate radio and press coverage, and encouraging local media activities at the divisional office level.

Mobilise the Franchise

The Mobilise the Franchise project commenced in 2009–10 to identify ideas and actions which may help to increase electoral participation.

The ongoing project is based on social marketing principles and segments the wider electorate by characteristics such as attitude, lifestyle, knowledge and skills.

A strategy has been developed with seven objectives, intended to guide future AEC business planning and priorities:

  • minimise the number of people who accidentally do not participate, in any of the four stages of participation (enrol, maintain enrolment, collect ballot paper, cast formal vote)
  • increase levels of internal efficacy related to elections, particularly among groups where it is currently low
  • increase levels of personal confidence in understanding elections, particularly among groups where participation is low
  • increase levels of people saying that they know that they have to vote, particularly among groups where participation is low
  • reduce the number of people who say that they do not participate due to fear (of being fined, of feeling shamed and so on)
  • provide information on all aspects of electoral participation to people, in their own space, language, format and time
  • simplify processes related to all aspects of electoral participation, particularly for groups with specific needs.

Mobilise the Franchise focuses on innovation. For example, the AEC has begun exploring with corporations and large employers the idea of promoting electoral enrolment to their staff, as well as externally through corporate social responsibility programs.

The case study 'Improving our understanding of the community' describes the Mobilise the Franchise research project and other projects in which the AEC participates which enable the AEC to better understand the trends and changes affecting electoral practices in Australia.

Improving our understanding of the community

Throughout 2009–10, the AEC focused heavily on analysing the factors that motivate Australians to participate (or not participate) in the electoral process.

The most significant initiative was Mobilise the Franchise, a research project led by former New Zealand Electoral Commissioner Dr Helena Catt, working in conjunction with AEC staff. In April 2010, the research team produced two comprehensive reports, containing a total of 69 options for change and modernisation. Those options covered a broad spectrum, from education and communication strategies to major changes to enrolment and voting systems. While some of the options identified by Mobilise the Franchise may not be taken up by the AEC, several are already being implemented and others are under consideration. With its emphasis on understanding the community and responding innovatively to community needs and expectations, Mobilise the Franchise will provide a framework for the AEC's modernisation efforts over the next few years.

The AEC also commissioned the Ipsos-Eureka Social Research Institute to conduct qualitative and quantitative research into the 'triggers' that affect enrolment decisions. Equipped with the research findings, the AEC developed new communication products, or modified existing products, and subjected them to careful market testing. Some of those products, including postcards, were launched later in the year.

The AEC is also an active participant in the Electoral Council of Australia (ECA), a consultative group of electoral commissioners from the Commonwealth, states and territories. In 2009–10, the ECA met three times, enabling jurisdictions to share information, including on the various electoral modernisation Bills brought before the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victorian parliaments. An ECA workshop on electoral research, led by the AEC with participation from academic researchers interested in the field, was held in December 2009. In this way, the AEC has been well informed about trends, analyses and changes affecting electoral practices in different parts of the country.

Campaigns

On 31 May, the Rock Enrol campaign was launched on the ABC youth radio station triple j, encouraging young people to enrol to vote before the 2010 federal election. The campaign is supported by a Rock Enrol webpage on the triple j website, on-air promotions and a YouTube video. The campaign will continue in the lead-up to the announcement of the 2010 federal election.

A campaign called Famous People Vote Too, featuring a group of well-known Australians, was launched on 8 June 2010. The campaign was designed to raise public awareness of enrolment and target 'missing voters', particularly among young Australians. A media campaign directed the public to a promotional website which was designed to be entertaining as well as informative and provides links to enable people to check their enrolment status, fill out a form online or find other AEC information.

Both campaigns were operating at 30 June 2010; their success will be evaluated in 2010–11.

Other communication activities

In 2009–10, the AEC's communication activities continued to focus on supporting its business functions of managing and growing the electoral roll, providing administrative support for electoral redistributions, and conducting by-elections.

The letters used for the Continuous Roll Update program were market tested and a new stepped approach was determined to be more effective than the traditional letter format. New envelope and letter designs were tested and found to have a positive impact.

The AEC's virtual tally room and online election results services were used to communicate the results of the Bradfield and Higgins by-elections to members of the public, the media and political parties.

Communication activities, including advertising, public and media relations, online content and publications, were undertaken to advise electors of the process and outcomes of the redistributions of electoral boundaries in New South Wales and Queensland.

Information services

To ensure the public had access to accurate and timely electoral information in 2009–10, the AEC provided a range of information services and products, including:

  • a national telephone service
  • a telephone interpreter service
  • national and divisional email inquiry services
  • a website
  • digital products
  • publications.

Telephone enquiry service

Through the AEC telephone enquiry service, the public can access an interpreter service. Demand for the telephone interpreter service continued to be strong in 2009–10. More than 4 455 calls were received, with a peak during October 2009 (615 calls, compared to a monthly average of 371 calls) that can be related to by-elections and Continuous Roll Update mailouts.

AEC website

In 2009–10, the AEC website, www.aec.gov.au, had around 840 000 unique visitors and in excess of 5 million page views.

In previous years, the AEC has reported website hits and page views for the website. A new system for reporting website statistics was introduced in 2009–10. As a result of the new system collecting the statistics in a different way, a comparison with the statistics in previous years is not meaningful.

The usage trend in 2009–10 was consistent with previous years. Traffic to the website increased significantly during electoral events – including the Bradfield and Higgins by-elections and the South Australian and Tasmanian State elections – and when media speculation about the announcement of a federal election increased in late June 2010.

National email service

The AEC has a national email service for inquiries (info@aec.gov.au) as well as divisional office email facilities. During the year the AEC received numerous email requests for assistance: in excess of 1 600 emails were received by the national service alone.

Email continues to increase in use, reflecting community expectations of fast and out-of-hours access to information. Many Australians working or travelling overseas rely on email.

Email has proved to be particularly useful for submitting enrolment forms and requesting general information on the electoral system. While the introduction of the SmartForm in September 2009 facilitated online access to enrolment forms, the requirement to submit a signed form meant that many electors relied on email to complete the enrolment process.

Publications and resources

During 2009–10, the AEC continued to work on a suite of enrolment and election publications. The brand management system which was partially introduced in 2008–09 to facilitate easy identification and navigation was applied to all new products and to existing products that came up for review. Many internal communication tools – such as manuals, the intranet and corporate templates – and key election products feature the new brand management system.

A booklet providing by-election information was produced and delivered to approximately 60 000 households in the Division of Bradfield and 69 000 households in the Division of Higgins. Due to the extremely high number of candidates (22) contesting the Bradfield by-election, additional strategies were implemented to assist electors to cast formal votes. These included a promotion of the Bradfield webpage on the AEC website and a large, coloured newspaper advertisement reminding electors to make sure their vote counted by numbering every box on the ballot paper. An A2-sized poster with the same message was displayed in all polling places in Bradfield.

Indigenous Electoral Participation Program

In July 2009, the AEC began extensive consultations with a range of stakeholders to design a program to improve the participation of Indigenous Australians in the electoral process, as part of a whole-of-government initiative to bridge the gap of Indigenous disadvantage. The Indigenous Electoral Participation Program was established in February 2010. Nineteen field officers were trained, and began working with communities and organisations in May 2010.

The objectives of the program are to increase levels of knowledge of democratic and electoral processes, enrolment and participation, and to decrease levels of informal voting, among Indigenous Australians.

The AEC is meeting these objectives through:

  • continuing to consult Indigenous communities, organisations and individuals to determine the most appropriate activities for each local area
  • employing an Australia-wide field program – in partnership with Indigenous communities; organisations, including educational institutions; and state/territory and federal government agencies – to deliver a continuous education and enrolment program
  • developing a suite of education and information programs, products and resources designed specifically for Indigenous audiences
  • developing and maintaining a national information system
  • undertaking research to gain a better evidence base to improve communication strategies and identify enrolment and voting issues for Indigenous people.

Intranet

In April 2010, an updated intranet site was launched, featuring new information architecture and graphic design. The updated site:

  • delivers a single entry point for staff to access corporate and operational information
  • includes a homepage news service, to provide staff with timely news items across the agency
  • enables the Electoral Commissioner to engage with staff more directly and frequently.

The intranet is the AEC's key internal communication tool, and is continuously improved through analysis of use patterns and user experiences. The intranet is expected to play an integral role in keeping staff informed during the 2010 federal election event, which represents a significant shift from a reliance on email.