Promoting enrolment, maintaining the roll, and ensuring its integrity are core AEC business objectives. Eligible Australians are legally obliged to enrol to vote and keep their enrolment up-to-date.

The AEC supports enrolment by making the process as easy as possible without compromising integrity. The completeness and accuracy of the Commonwealth electoral roll remains one of the AEC’s greatest challenges. At 30 June 2013, an estimated 1.4 million eligible Australians were not on the electoral roll. The established trend has been that the estimated number of people missing from the roll is increasing, as population growth is faster than roll growth.

At 30 June 2013, the electoral roll size and estimated participation rate1 were:
Voters enrolled Eligible Australians Proportion of eligible Australians enrolled (participation rate) Estimated 'missing' from the electoral roll
14 504 561 15 874 594 91.4% 1 370 033

1. Enrolment participation is the number of people enrolled as a percentage of the estimated number eligible to enrol.

The AEC delivers key activities to maximise enrolment and community engagement with electoral matters. Priorities include ensuring:

  • people are aware of their obligation to enrol
  • newly eligible voters, including new citizens enrol
  • people keep their enrolment details up-to-date (for example, when they change address)
  • the process of enrolling is simple, while maintaining integrity within the system by ensuring that only those eligible go on the roll.
Man facing computer looking at AEC online enrolment page

Electoral Roll Management 1.1

Electoral roll management: maintain multiple streams of contact with electors to encourage them to enrol and keep their enrolment up-to-date.

Key performance indicator: 95% of eligible people are on the electoral roll.

  • 2010–11: Not achieved – 90.9%
  • 2011–12: Not achieved – 90.6%
  • 2012–13: Not achieved – 91.4%

Enrolment participation

There have been significant gains in reaching the 95 per cent target of eligible people on the electoral roll in 2012–13 compared with 2011–12. While below target, roll growth did occur due to a range of factors. These include the impending 2013 federal election, the introduction of Federal Direct Enrolment and Update (FDEU) and improvements to online enrolment service, plus public awareness and communication activities.

In 2012–13, the AEC sent 2.6 million enrolment reminder letters and processed 2 839 441 enrolment forms. Between 30 June 2012 and 30 June 2013, the roll grew by 277 396 and 91.4 per cent of eligible people were enrolled, up from 90.6 per cent. The roll grew in each state and territory except Queensland. Figure 2 shows the trend in the number of people enrolled and the participation rate for each year since the 2007 federal election. While the number of people enrolled increases from each point to the next, beginning with the 2007 election, the trend in the estimated participation rate decreases until the June prior to the federal election in 2010.

While the estimated eligible population tends to increase faster than enrolment, stimulation activities such as Count Me In during 2012, the introduction of FDEU, and the early announcement of the 2013 federal election helped arrest this trend. Monthly statistics and quarterly statistics are available.

Figure 2: Size of the electoral roll and estimated participation rate November 2007 to June 2013

Size of the electoral roll and estimated participation rate, November 2007 to June 2013
Table 2: Estimated enrolment participation by age as at 30 June 2012 and 30 June 2013
Age (years) Estimated enrolment participation at 30 June 20121 Estimated enrolment participation at 30 June 20132
18–19 50.8% 60.0%
20–24 80.6% 81.0%
25–29 84.1% 85.4%
30–34 87.5% 88.8%
35–39 87.0% 92.1%
40–44 92.8% 91.6%
45–49 90.5% 93.6%
50–54 94.8% 94.0%
55–59 96.5% 96.0%
60–64 95.9% 98.7%
65–69 103.2%3 96.5%
70+ 99.8% 98.3%
  1. Enrolment participation is the number of people enrolled as a percentage of the estimated number eligible to enrol.
  2. Calculated using preliminary revised estimates from the 2011 Census.
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics population estimates are periodically reviewed and adjusted, therefore variations may have an impact on the participation calculation for example, movement of people through ageing across the age groups.

Enrolment and age

The participation rate differs considerably between age groups, with the rate for people aged 55 years and over above 95 per cent. All other age groups remain below the 95 per cent target. While the participation rate is lowest for people aged 18–19 years, the last twelve months have seen strong growth, with over 47 000 people in this age group added to the roll. This is an increase in participation of 9.2 per cent for people aged 18–19 years as shown in Table 2.

Figure 3: Target and actual participation rate for 18–25-year-olds 2007–08 to 2012–13

 Target and actual participation rate for 18–25- year olds, 2007–08 to 2012–13
Table 3: Trends in enrolment participation for 18–29-year-olds
Age (years) Estimated enrolment
participation at 30 June 2012
Estimated enrolment
participation at 30 June 2013
18–19 50.8% 60.0%
20–24 80.6% 81.0%
25–29 84.1% 85.4%

Young Australians

At 30 June 2013, 76.3 per cent of people aged 18–25 years were enrolled, well below the AEC’s 80 per cent target (see Figure 3). This is, however, an improvement on 2011–12 as is usual towards an election. Table 3 shows the trends in the participation rate of young Australians over time, including election years.

Australians are eligible to enrol once they turn 16, but cannot vote until they turn 18. At 30 June 2013, there were 17 564 people aged 16 and 56 146 people aged 17 enrolled. The estimated enrolment participation rate is 6.7 per cent for people aged 16 and 20.4 per cent for people aged 17.

The AEC anticipates the introduction of electronic signature for online enrolment, and Federal Direct Enrolment and Update will increase participation in younger age groups. Online enrolment generated the most federal enrolment transactions from people aged 18–25 years in 2012–13.

Enrolment by state and territory

Enrolment trends in state and territories (except the ACT) continue to track below the target participation rate of 95 per cent. As at 30 June 2012, all states and territories were below the target participation rate. At 30 June 2013, there has been stabilisation or improvement in the participation rates in all jurisdictions except for Qld, with the ACT achieving the 95 per cent target. Table 4 compares the number of voters enrolled in each jurisdiction at 30 June 2012 with 30 June 2013.

Enrolling new citizens

New citizens are an important group of eligible voters. For new citizens who speak a language other than English, the AEC has a service that gives translated information about enrolling and voting and provides a telephone interpreter service.

During 2012–13, 92.1 per cent of new citizens enrolled to vote within three months of becoming an Australian citizen, 2.9 per cent below the 95 per cent target. A high proportion enrol within six months of becoming citizens. Figure 4 shows the proportion of forms returned within three months and six months of distribution at a citizenship ceremony.

Figure 4: Proportion of forms returned within six months of distribution at a citizenship ceremony

 Target and actual participation rate for 18–25- year olds, 2007–08 to 2012–13
Table 4: Trends in the number of voters1 enrolled in each state and territory 2012–13
Jurisdiction Size of the electoral roll Estimated enrolment participation
30 June 2012 30 June 2013 30 June 20122 30 June 20132
NSW 4 630 144 4 747 077 91.0% 92.6%
Vic. 3 605 875 3 664 594 92.2% 92.7%
Qld 2 773 885 2 788 127 89.4% 87.7%
WA 1 382 734 1 437 574 86.0% 89.7%
SA 1 101 628 1 117 449 92.5% 93.0%
Tas. 358 649 360 889 94.2% 94.2%
ACT 251 535 261 917 92.7% 96.1%
NT 122 715 126 934 78.9% 81.1%
  1. People included in this table are aged 18 and are enrolled to vote at federal elections.
  2. Calculated using preliminary estimates from the 2011 Census.

The AEC attended 1 201 citizenship ceremonies across all states and territories and reached 79 469 new Australian citizens in 2012–13. Each new citizen gets a pre-filled enrolment form for return to the council representative at the ceremony.

Federal Direct Enrolment and Update

An amendment to the Electoral Act on 24 July 2012 allows the AEC to directly enrol or update the enrolment of eligible Australians. FDEU complements the AEC’s existing Continuous Roll Update (CRU) program.

Under FDEU, the AEC receives third-party data from Centrelink and the National Exchange of Vehicle and Driver Information System (NEVDIS) to identify individuals unenrolled or whose enrolment may not be up-to-date. Building on Centrelink and NEVDIS’ strong evidence of identity processes, the AEC uses specialist information technology systems to match data against the electoral roll. The AEC conducts further integrity checks to confirm the individual’s eligibility for enrolment. The AEC writes to individuals, identified for direct enrolment or update, to advise that the AEC intends to enrol them for a specified address. Individuals have 28 days to respond with a reason for non-enrolment or update for that address. If they provide an unsuitable reason or do not respond within 28 days, the AEC updates the electoral roll and notifies the individual.

Since FDEU’s implementation, over 120 000 voters have either enrolled for the first time or re-enrolled, and more than 530 000 voters have updated address details.

Online enrolment

Online enrolment remains the most popular way for people to enrol or update their details. In 2012–13, over 780 000 people chose to enrol or update their details online. A letter from the AEC generated 30.6 per cent of online enrolments, while 48.9 per cent were self-initiated.

In June 2013, the AEC launched electronic signature capture for online enrolment. This change means people can sign their online enrolment form without the need to print a paper form.

Of the 2 839 441 enrolment forms processed in 2012–13, the sources of enrolment in order of popularity included:

  1. online enrolment service
  2. FDEU
  3. state direct enrolment and update
  4. mail review
  5. state electoral commissions
  6. Post Office
  7. divisional office issue
  8. citizenship ceremonies
  9. state declaration voting envelopes
  10. transport authorities

Electoral Roll Management 1.1

Electoral roll management: maintain multiple streams of contact with electors to encourage them to enrol and keep their enrolment up-to-date.

Key performance indicator: Those eligible to enrol have enhanced capacity to access certain enrolment services electronically where legislative authority exists.

  • 2010–11: Legislative changes, effective July 2010 enabled enrolled voters to update their address details electronically.
  • 2011–12: Improved online enrolment service and collaboration with Australia Post to allow eligible individuals to use online mail redirection service to enrol.
  • 2012–13: Further enhanced online enrolment service by capturing online electronic signatures and continued collaboration with Australia Post.

Key performance indicator: Continue to implement the Indigenous Electoral Participation Program.

This key performance indicator reported against Program 1.3: Education and Communication.

Maintaining electoral roll integrity

A high integrity electoral roll is one where the names and addresses on the electoral roll are legitimate and only people who are eligible to vote have enrolled. Electoral roll integrity is central to Australia’s democracy. The AEC’s measures, directed to the accuracy and completeness of the roll, are to check:

  • Entitlement – the individual meets all legislative qualifications to enrol and the AEC tests information provided by the individual to detect and prevent enrolment fraud
  • Accuracy – the individual’s enrolment is for the correct address
  • Completeness – all entitled individuals enrol
  • Processing correctness – the AEC enters information, provided by individuals and organisations, correctly and completely on the roll and addresses are valid
  • Security – the AEC protects the electoral roll from unauthorised access and tampering.

The AEC ensures that enrolment applications are accurate and in accordance with legislative requirements. They apply standard processing procedures, policies and practice to validate all applications. Where necessary, the AEC undertakes additional checks to confirm identity and eligibility for enrolment. These may include confirming voter details with other government agencies, such as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Department of Foreign Affairs, contacting the voter, or referring to prior enrolment applications.

Electoral roll management 1.1

Electoral roll management: Maintain multiple streams of contact with electors to encourage them to enrol and keep their enrolment up-to-date.

Key performance indicator: 99.5% of enrolment transactions processed correctly.

  • 2010–11: Not achieved – 97.4%
  • 2011–12: Achieved – 99.5%
  • 2012–13: Achieved – 99.6%

Key performance indicator: 99% of enrolment transactions processed within three business days.

  • 2010–11: Not achieved – 79.0%
  • 2011–12: Not achieved – 88.52%
  • 2012–13: Not achieved – 82.7%

Enrolment Quality Assurance Program

The Enrolment Quality Assurance Program (EQAP) is the AEC’s national enrolment quality assurance program. It measures the accuracy and timeliness of enrolment applications. In 2012–13, the AEC achieved the 99.6 per cent target for correct processing. The AEC did not meet the target for processing enrolment transactions within three business days, which decreased to 82.7 per cent from 88.5 per cent in the previous year. The decrease was due to system capacity testing through the year, which required stockpiling of forms to simulate a close of rolls event, as part of election planning and systems capacity testing.

Other factors affecting the timeliness of enrolment processing include:

  • transfer of enrolments received on behalf of the AEC
  • differences in Commonwealth and state and territory electoral laws
  • incomplete forms submitted which require information checks to complete processing
  • movement of forms within the AEC network to balance workload.

Sample Audit Fieldwork

Sample Audit Fieldwork (SAF) is a regular component of the AEC’s roll integrity program, which involves the review of a statistically significant random sample of electoral rolls to determine the accuracy and completeness of those rolls. Officers from the AEC doorknock at enrolled addresses across Australia.

SAF measures:

  • enrolment participation – calculated by comparing the number of eligible voters currently enrolled to the total number of persons estimated in the sample to be eligible to enrol
  • enrolment completeness – calculates the number of eligible voters on divisional rolls as a percentage of those eligible to be on those rolls
  • enrolment accuracy – percentage of current voters enrolled for the address at which they are living; their enrolment details required no amendment.

The findings of the 2013 SAF exercise, the fifth conducted by the AEC, were that CRU activities are effective and meet the program objective to maintain an accurate and up-to-date electoral roll. Once established as an ongoing activity with the CRU program, FDEU will further enhance effectiveness. While SAF results are positive, opportunity remains for further program development, in particular to increase public awareness of enrolment and the need to maintain address details with the AEC.

Electoral redistributions

A high integrity electoral roll is essential for electoral redistributions to ensure an equal number of voters in each federal electoral division.

In 2012–13, there were no redistributions. Redistribution for the ACT was due to start within 30 days of 8 December 2012, as seven years had passed since the last federal redistribution of the ACT. However, the Electoral Act prevents redistribution from commencing in the 12 months before the expiry of the House of Representatives.a The ACT redistribution will commence within 30 days of the first sitting of the new House of Representatives following the 2013 federal election.

Support services for electoral redistributions 1.1

Support services for electoral redistributions: Deliver support for the redistributions culminating in the AEC providing updated electoral boundary redistribution maps and advice to impacted electors.

Key performance indicator: Support services provided by the AEC are appropriate and allow for the effective and timely conduct of redistribution activities, complying with legislative requirements and to the satisfaction of redistribution committees.

  • 2010–11: Achieved
  • 2011–12: Achieved
  • 2012–13: Not applicable – No redistributions

Special enrolment provisions

The AEC provides enrolment options for people with special needs or specific circumstances. Special enrolment forms are available for people of no fixed address; who are overseas, in prison or working in Antartica; physically incapable of signing electoral papers or who believe having their address on the roll could put themselves or their family’s safety at risk. Review of voters registered under special provisions is ongoing.

In 2012–13, the AEC provided targeted communication and education programs to encourage these groups to maintain up to date enrolment. Table 5 shows the number of special category voters at 30 June 2013.

Table 5: Special categories of voters as at 30 June 2013
Category Description Number
Prisoners Individuals serving a full-time prison sentence of less than three years can vote in federal elections. Individuals serving a sentence of three years or longer can remain on the roll but are not entitled to vote until released from prison. 327
General postal voter Individuals who for various reasons cannot attend a polling place anywhere in the State or Territory for which they are enrolled on polling day can apply beforehand in writing for a ‘postal vote’. Following registration individuals automatically receive a postal vote pack in the mail after ballot papers are available. 220 503
Eligible overseas voter Individuals who are going overseas for a short period and plan to return to their address in Australia. 17 005
Itinerant Individuals who live in Australia but have no permanent residential address. 6 723
Norfolk Islander Norfolk Island residents who satisfy other requirements for enrolment (18 years of age and an Australian citizen) can enrol for a division in a state to which they have a connection, for the Division of Canberra in the ACT or for the Division of Solomon in the NT. 226
Provisional Individuals aged 16 and 17 years. 73 793
Silent Individuals who believe having their address shown on the roll could put them or their family’s safety at risk. 89 371
Antarctic Individuals who are, or expect to be in Antarctica, in the course of their employment. Registration ceases when the voter no longer to resides in Antarctica. It is not compulsory to register as an Antarctic voter. 32

Delivering roll products

In 2012–13, the AEC continued collaboration with government departments and agencies on election services. The AEC held discussions with the Department of Human Services and the Australian Taxation Office on the provision of data for enrolment and integrity purposes, and other support for the federal election. There were 3 566 extracts of the electoral roll (called ‘roll products and services’ in the portfolio budget statements) provided under the Electoral Act, an increase of 11 per cent on 2011–12.

These extracts were accurate, delivered on time and met all key performance indicators.

Electoral roll management 1.1

Electoral roll management: Maintain multiple streams of contact with electors to encourage them to enrol and keep their enrolment up-to-date.

Key performance indicator: At least 98% of roll products are accurate.

  • 2010–11: Achieved – 99.9%
  • 2011–12: Achieved – 100%
  • 2012–13: Achieved – 98.8%

Key performance indicator: At least 98% of roll products delivered by agreed deadline.

  • 2010–11: Achieved – 100%
  • 2011–12: Achieved – 100%
  • 2012–13: Achieved– 100%

Providing roll information to government departments and agencies

Government departments and agencies can receive electoral roll information if they are a prescribed authority, under Item 4 of s.90B(4) of the Electoral Act.b

There were 45 extracts of electoral roll information provided to 13 government departments and agencies in 2012–13 as shown in Table 25. Each agency provided justification for access in terms of their statutory functions and Information Privacy Principle 11 (IPP 11)c of the Privacy Act 1988.

Providing roll information to medical researchers

Electoral roll information may be given to 'any person or organisation that conducts medical research or provides a health screening program' under Item 2 of s.90B(4) of the Electoral Actd. In 2012–13, the AEC provided nine extracts of electoral roll information to approved medical researchers and organisations conducting health screening surveys. See details in Table 26.

Providing roll information to the private sector

There were 16 extracts of electoral roll information provided to five organisations verifying identity for financial purposes during 2012–13e. See Table 27.

Table 27 shows the five organisations that received roll information during 2012–13 and the months they received this data. The prescribed persons and organisations are set out in Regulation 7 of the Electoral and Referendum Regulations 1940. Use of electoral roll information given to these persons and organisations is limited to the permitted purposes in s.91A of the Electoral Act.

  1. As at 30 June 2013 the House of Representatives was set to expire on 27 September 2013
  2. Prescribed authorities are in Schedule 1 to the Electoral and Referendum Regulations 1940, and the use of electoral roll information is limited to the permitted purposes listed in that schedule.
  3. IPP 11 permits the disclosure of personal information for enforcement of the criminal law or of a law imposing a pecuniary penalty or for the protection of public revenue.
  4. Use of information given under this item is limited by s.91A(2A)(c) of the Electoral Act, and the permitted purposes for which the information can be used are listed in Regulation 9 of the Electoral and Referendum Regulations 1940.
  5. Electoral roll information may be given to a prescribed person or organisation if they meet the specifications listed in Items 5 to 7 of s.90B(4) of the Electoral Act.
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