Annual Report 2013–14

Report on performance

Active electoral roll management

AEC OUTCOME

Maintain an impartial and independent electoral system for eligible voters through active electoral roll management, efficient delivery of polling services and targeted education and public awareness programmes.

Programme 1.1 Electoral Roll Management

Voter entitlement for Australians and support for electoral events and redistributions through maintaining an accurate and up-to-date electoral roll.

An accurate and complete electoral roll is vital to the integrity of Australia’s electoral system. Enrolment is the first step to voting, and all eligible Australians are legally obliged to enrol to vote and keep their enrolment up to date. A high-integrity electoral roll also supports state and territory elections and fair and impartial electoral redistributions.

Overview

This chapter reports on the AEC’s performance in:

  • managing the electoral roll to ensure its integrity, accuracy and completeness
  • providing roll services that support electoral redistributions, state and territory electoral authorities and people with special needs or specific circumstances.

2013–14 performance highlights include:

  • strengthened enrolment business processes and integrity measures
  • enhanced online enrolment services
  • delivery of the 2013 federal election close of rolls
  • an increase in the enrolment participation rate of 0.9 per cent.

The chapter includes key performance results over three years and a case study on the AEC’s roll management at the 2013 federal election.

Maintaining the electoral roll

The AEC’s roll management programme seeks to ensure the integrity, accuracy and completeness of the federal electoral roll. To achieve this, the AEC employs a range of measures as part of a continuous roll update philosophy, which aims to maintain roll integrity throughout the three-year federal election cycle.

Roll integrity

Roll integrity is central to the AEC’s management of the electoral roll. A high-integrity electoral roll is one where names and addresses on the roll are legitimate and correct, and only people who are eligible to vote have enrolled. The accuracy and quality of enrolment processing, and maintaining the security of the roll, are also important elements of integrity.

The AEC aims to identify and prevent integrity issues before an enrolment is processed. It applies standard procedures and policies to each enrolment to confirm the veracity of information provided and ensure that the enrolment is processed accurately and according to legislative requirements. These checks confirm:

  • the identity and eligibility of the person enrolling
  • the accuracy and validity of the enrolment address.

Where necessary, the AEC undertakes additional checks to confirm identity and eligibility, including confirming enrolment details with other government agencies, such as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Department of Foreign Affairs; contacting the person; and referring to prior enrolment applications.

In 2014 the AEC established a dedicated Electoral Integrity Unit. The unit will review all aspects of the AEC’s programme design and delivery, commencing with roll management, to drive improvements that build on existing integrity protections.

Enrolment quality assurance

The Enrolment Quality Assurance Programme measures the correctness and timeliness of AEC enrolment processing. In 2013–14, 99.6 per cent of enrolment forms were processed correctly – the same result as 2012–13. Detailed Enrolment Quality Assurance Programme results.

In 2013–14, the AEC processed 84.4 per cent of enrolments within three business days. The target enrolment processing rate is 99 per cent within three business days. The processing target was not met because:

  • at various points during the year enrolment forms were stockpiled for close of rolls simulation exercises in preparation for the 2013 federal election close of rolls (the deadline for people to enrol or update their enrolment details before an election)
  • legislative requirements prohibit changes to the roll between the close of roles deadline and election day.

Altogether, in 2013–14, the AEC processed more than 3.5 million enrolment transactions,1 as shown in Figure 12. This number is substantially higher than the total in 2012–13, which was in turn a substantial increase on historical levels.

Enrolment participation

The completeness of the roll is measured by the participation rate – the percentage of eligible Australian voters who are enrolled. The AEC supports roll completeness by maintaining multiple streams of contact with eligible voters to encourage them to enrol and keep their enrolment up to date.

In 2013–14, the participation rate increased by 0.9 per cent – from 91.4 per cent at 30 June 2013 to 92.3 per cent at 30 June 2014. There was a corresponding decline in the number of eligible Australians who are not enrolled – from 1.4 million at 30 June 2013 to 1.2 million at 30 June 2014. A number of factors contributed to the improved participation rate – in particular, the 2013 federal election. While these figures represent a change in the long-term trend of declining enrolment, the participation rate is still below the AEC’s target of 95 per cent. The primary reason for this gap is that population growth outstrips enrolment growth.

Table 2 shows the number of voters enrolled at 30 June and the estimated number of Australians who are eligible to enrol. Figure 3 shows the participation rate and the growth of the roll since 2007.

More detailed data on enrolment. The AEC publishes monthly and quarterly enrolment statistics on the AEC website.

Figure 3: Participation rate and enrolled population, 24 November 2007 to 30 June 2014

Figure 3: Participation rate and enrolled population, 24 November 2007 to 30 June 2014

Close of rolls – 2013 federal election

AEC research shows that federal elections are the largest drivers of enrolment. The close of rolls, the deadline for people to enrol or update their enrolment details before an election, is always a peak workload period for the AEC. The 2013 federal election close of rolls saw 627 256 enrolment transactions processed between the announcement of the election on 4 August 2013 and the enrolment deadline of 8pm on 12 August 2013. This compares with 553 272 at the 2010 election and 196 4492 at the 2007 election.

The AEC invested significant planning and preparation into managing this workload successfully. Planning for the 2013 federal close of rolls began immediately after the 2010 election. Each AEC state and territory office developed local resourcing plans and nationally the AEC implemented improvements to procedures, IT systems and infrastructure. The effectiveness of these measures was then evaluated through a series of processing load tests that simulated peak election workloads.

In July 2013, the AEC also implemented enhanced capability to share the enrolment processing workload between divisions and states. This allowed the election workload to be levelled across geographically dispersed divisional offices. The AEC is increasingly using workload sharing to support local staff and maintain processing efficiency.

More information on the AEC’s management of the 2013 federal election close of rolls is provided in the case study, ‘Eight days, six hundred thousand enrolments’.

Close of rolls – other elections

The AEC also successfully managed the close of rolls for the Griffith by-election and the 2014 Western Australian Senate election. These were much smaller than the federal election close of roles but still presented peak workload periods for local staff. A range of strategies were applied to manage them successfully. For example, during 2014 Western Australian Senate election the enrolment processing workload was shared across the AEC, with a substantial proportion of enrolments processed in New South Wales.

The AEC also conducted more than 70 roll closes throughout the year to support local, state and territory elections. More information is provided under Report on Performance Programme 1.2 – Election Support Services.

Continuous roll update

While the 2013 federal election was a significant factor in the increase in enrolment for the year, it only accounts for some of that increase. The ‘continuous roll update’ approach, whereby the AEC maintains contact with eligible voters throughout the electoral cycle, also contributed to the improved result. Continuous roll update incorporates a variety of activities and strategies, including:

  • direct mail to people to remind them to enrol or to update their enrolment details
  • communication campaigns such as those conducted for the 2013 federal election (see Report on Performance Programme 1.3 – Education and Public Awareness)
  • providing convenient online options for people to check their enrolment status and enrol or update their enrolment
  • direct enrolment and update, whereby the AEC updates peoples’ enrolment based on data received from other government agencies.3
Online enrolment

The 2013 federal election was the first at which voters could sign their enrolment form online. This service proved popular with voters: a total of 85 per cent of all enrolments during the federal election close of rolls were through the AEC’s online enrolment service, compared with 27 per cent at the 2010 election.

Feedback from users of online enrolment has been positive, confirming that online services and streamlined technology are important to meeting public expectations of government. Online enrolment is available from the AEC website.

‘What a great system – so much easier than in days gone by where you had to post a form to your office. Great to see that technological advancements are being used so well.’

— User of AEC online enrolment

Targeted enrolment programmes

To ensure that enrolment keeps pace with population growth, the AEC seeks to enrol those who are newly eligible to enrol: those who turn 18 and those who become Australian citizens.

Youth enrolment

Youth enrolment is a challenge for the AEC – young Australians aged 18 to 25 have lower levels of enrolment than that of the population as a whole. In 2013–14, in the lead-up to the federal election, the AEC conducted a pre-election enrolment campaign with activities targeting eligible young Australians. These included outreach through social media and partnerships with sporting associations, workplaces and tertiary institutions. The campaign is discussed in detail in Report on Performance Programme 1.3 – Education and Public Awareness.

These measures contributed to an increase in the youth participation rate from 76.3 per cent at 30 June 2013 to 78.5 per cent at 30 June 2014. Figure 4 shows trends in the youth participation rate since 2007.

New citizens

The other group of people who are newly eligible to vote in Australia – new citizens – are also a target for the AEC’s enrolment efforts. In 2013–14, AEC officers attended and collected enrolment forms at 1 405 citizenship ceremonies. A high proportion of new citizens enrol within six months. Figure 5 shows the trend in the numbers of enrolment forms received within three and six months of a citizenship ceremony.

For new citizens who speak a language other than English, the AEC has a service on its website that provides translated information about enrolling and voting. A telephone interpreter service is also available.

Figure 4: Youth (18–25-year-old) participation rate, 2007 to 2014

Figure 4: Youth (18–25‑year‑old) participation rate, 2007 to 2014

Figure 5: Enrolment forms received within three and six months of citizenship ceremonies

Figure 5: Enrolment forms received within three and six months of citizenship ceremonies

Electoral roll services

The AEC provides tailored enrolment services to people with special needs or specific circumstances. It also provides roll services and extracts to support electoral redistributions, and state and territory electoral authorities.

Tailored enrolment options

A range of tailored enrolment options are available for people with special needs or specific circumstances. These include special enrolment forms are provided for people of no fixed address; those who live overseas or who work in Antarctica; general postal voters; people who are in prison; people who are physically incapable of signing electoral papers; and ‘silent electors’ – people who believe that having their address on the roll could put their safety or that of their family at risk. Review of voters registered under these special provisions is ongoing. More information about special enrolment categories is available on the AEC website.

In 2013–14, the only change to special enrolment provisions was to services for silent electors – people who for security reasons do not have their address shown on the electoral roll. In March 2013, the Electoral Act was amended to allow silent electors to carry this status over without having to complete a new statutory declaration when they move into a new electoral division.

This change is an important protection for silent electors who are no longer required to reapply for silent status each time they move.

Electoral roll extracts

The AEC provides extracts of information from the electoral roll to a range of groups – such as parliamentarians, states and territories, other government agencies and medical researchers – for authorised purposes.

In 2013–14, the AEC provided 3 546 electoral roll extracts, 20 fewer than in 2012–13.

State and territory electoral authorities

The AEC maintains the roll on behalf of the states and territories under joint roll arrangements and provides them with information from the roll, called roll extracts, for state and territory elections. In 2013–14 the AEC provided states and territories with 745 roll extracts and supported 79 state, territory and local government elections.

More information on assistance to state and territory electoral authorities is provided under Report on Performance Programme 1.2 – Election Support Services.

Members and senators

Section 90B of the Electoral Act allows Members of Parliament, Senators and candidates to receive electoral roll information. The AEC provided 717 roll extracts in 2013–14.

Political parties

Federally registered political parties are also entitled to receive electoral roll information in accordance with section 90B of the Electoral Act. In 2013–14, the AEC provided 252 roll extracts.

Government departments and agencies

Government departments and agencies are entitled to receive electoral roll information if they are a ‘prescribed authority’, under item 4 of section 90B(4) of the Electoral Act.

The AEC provided 49 roll extracts to 13 government departments and agencies in 2013–14. Each agency provided justification for access by reference to its statutory functions and the Privacy Act 1988.

Researchers

Medical researchers and electoral researchers are allowed access to electoral roll information under section 90B(4) of the Electoral Act. They commonly use this information to identify participants for research programmes and surveys. Before they can access roll data, researchers must go through an approval process, which includes approval by a human research ethics committee and agreement about how the data will be used and protected.

In 2013–14 six medical researchers and four electoral researchers received electoral roll information.

Private sector organisations

Under section 90B(4) of the Electoral Act, private sector organisations can receive roll information for identity verification processes related to the Financial Transactions Reports Act 1988 and the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006. The AEC provided 16 roll extracts for organisations in 2013–14.

Redistributions

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

In 2013–14 there were no redistributions of electoral boundaries in any state. A redistribution for the ACT was due to start by 12 December 2013 but was deferred until after the next determination of membership entitlement for the House of Representatives, due in November 2014.

The Electoral Act provides for deferral of a redistribution if the Electoral Commissioner is of the opinion that, following the next determination, the number of members of the House of Representatives will or may change. Deferral of the ACT redistribution was made under this provision, as the number of electoral divisions to which the ACT is entitled may increase from two to three.

Programme 1.1 Electoral Roll Management – key performance results
Key performance indicators 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14

95% of eligible people are on the electoral roll. (Participation rate as at 30 June 2014.)

Not achieved

90.6%

Not achieved

91.4%

Not achieved

92.3%

99.5% of enrolment transactions processed correctly.

Achieved

99.5%

Achieved

99.6%

Achieved

99.6%

99% of enrolment transactions processed within three business days.

Not achieved

88.5%

Not achieved

82.7%

Not achieved

84.4%

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

Achieved

Improved online enrolment service; Australia Post collaboration allows eligible individuals to use online mail redirection service to enrol.

Achieved

Online enrolment service enhanced through capture of electronic signatures. Collaboration with Australia Post continued.

Achieved

Increasing use of online enrolment service for daily transactions.

At least 98% of roll products are accurate.

Achieved

100%

Achieved

98.8%

Achieved

100%

At least 98% of roll products delivered by agreed deadline.

Achieved

100%

Achieved

100%

Achieved

100%

AEC support services are appropriate and allow for effective, timely conduct of redistributions.

Redistribution activities comply with legislative requirements and to satisfaction of redistribution committees.

Achieved

Support services provided in a timely manner, in accordance with legislative requirements, and to satisfaction of redistribution committees.

Not Applicable

No redistributions were conducted.

Not Applicable

No redistributions were conducted.

  1. Enrolment transactions include all new enrolments and all changes to enrolments, such as updating enrolled addresses, removing people from the roll and reinstating people to the roll.
  2. The significantly lower number for the 2007 federal close of rolls is due to the shorter enrolment deadline which applied at that election and a major AEC campaign over preceding months to enrol people before the election.
  3. More information about the direct enrolment and update process is available on the AEC’s website.