A new role to deliver reform: Divisional Materials Managers at the 2014 Western Australian Senate election
The 2014 Western Australian Senate election was conducted under unprecedented scrutiny. The AEC needed to demonstrate that it had new, improved procedures in place to ensure the security of ballot papers, the quality of election services and the integrity of the election outcome. The new role of Divisional Materials Manager (DMM) would be central to achieving these goals.
The role of DMM was first introduced at the 2014 Griffith by-election. Given the larger scale of the WA Senate election, the role was enhanced and experienced temporary staff were appointed as DMMs for each WA electoral division.
DMMs were responsible for the movement, packaging, storage, and security of all of their division’s election materials and for maintaining a detailed materials management log. They worked primarily at outposted centres – premises hired for a range of large-scale election tasks. In Perth, outposted centres housed several divisions and DMMs at these sites reported to a supervisor who oversaw material management for the whole centre.
Louise Foppoli was appointed the DMM supervisor at the Northern Scrutiny Centre and was responsible for supervising DMMs for three divisions – Cowan, Moore and Pearce. ‘All the positions were new, which meant that, regardless of our election experience, we had a lot to learn’, Louise said.
For nearly three weeks before the election, DMMs were responsible for organising materials for the officers in charge of each polling place, including ballot papers, certified lists and sundry election materials. ‘We organised ballot paper secure zones in allocated areas within the scrutiny centre and monitored them daily so that movement of ballot papers was controlled and fully accounted for at all times’, Louise said.
After election day, the DMMs had to ensure all ballot papers from each polling place as well as declaration votes were accounted for and could continue to be accounted for at each phase of the subsequent scrutinies. They also worked closely with their respective Divisional Returning Officers to ensure that the ballot papers and results tallied for each division.
'The first few days after the election were definitely the most challenging’, Louise said. ‘There was pressure to count votes as quickly as possible, but we could not compromise on the methodical accounting and packaging procedures to be followed. I was impressed with the dedication of everyone involved and the efforts they went to so that every ballot paper could be accounted for at every step in the process.'
Louise believes that trialling the new roles and procedures at state level was a vital step in the AEC’s reform process. ‘I’m really confident my team did a great job – not just because we achieved the needed outcome but also because we added value along the way. We saw the intent of the changes straight away but sometimes minor adjustments to forms and processes were needed for the new procedures to work effectively on the ground’, she said.
‘I’m sure the things we learned will help other AEC staff and ensure that full rollout at the next federal election is successful.’