Annual Report 2014–15

3Performance reporting

Managing Elections

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 programs.

  • 1.1 Electoral Roll Management
  • 1.2 Election Management and Support Services
  • 1.3 Education and Communication

Programme objective

Access to an impartial and independent electoral system through the provision of election services, assistance and advice.

Under the Electoral Act and the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 the AEC delivers federal elections, by-elections and referendums. In 2014–15, the Elections branch in national office underwent significant restructuring as part of the review of the broad range of responsibilities in the branch’s work program and to ensure that quality outcomes would be effectively delivered.

Overview

This section reports on the AEC’s performance in:

  • election management – consisting of ongoing management of the post-election work from the 2013 federal election, 2014 Griffith by-election and 2014 Western Australian Senate election
  • reform and improvement – consisting of ongoing work in election preparation, planning and delivery.

Election management

In 2014–15, the AEC did not deliver any federal electoral events, however post-election activities continued for the three events held in 2013–14:

  • 2013 federal election
  • 2014 Griffith by-election
  • 2014 Western Australian Senate election.

Apparent non-voting and multiple voting

The Electoral Act provides that it is an offence to fail to vote without a valid and sufficient reason for the failure to vote.

In late August and early September 2014, summonses were issued against more than 3 000 apparent non-voters at the 2013 federal election. This number was one of the highest on record. Most of these cases proceeded to court and most non-voters were fined and convictions recorded.

In relation to the 2014 Griffith by-election held on 8 February 2014, 59 cases of apparent non-voting proceeded to prosecution and in relation to the 2014 Western Australian Senate election, 1006 cases of apparent non-voting proceeded to prosecution.

The Electoral Act also provides that a person is guilty of an offence if the person votes more than once in the same election. The follow up of apparent multiple voting is an important electoral integrity measure. As noted in the 2013–14 annual report, the AEC referred 7 743 cases of apparent multiple voting at the 2013 federal election to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for investigation. These represented cases where a voter had been marked against more than one voting list and where the mark could not be positively confirmed as an official error.

The AFP investigated 65 of these cases which were in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. In December 2014, the AFP advised it had completed its investigation and none had been referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) for consideration of prosecution. The AFP concluded that based on the responses received from apparent multiple voters, it could not be established that there was a deliberate intention to cast multiple votes and therefore the offence contained in subsection 339(1C) of the Electoral Act could not be proved.

Following the conduct of the 2014 Griffith by-election, 19 cases of apparent multiple voting arising from the by-election were referred to the AFP on 4 November 2014 for investigation. The AFP advised the AEC of the results of the referrals on 24 November 2014. The AFP assessed each matter and advised the AEC that it would not be taking any further action.

A total of 719 cases of apparent multiple voting in relation to the 2014 Western Australian Senate election were referred to the AFP for consideration within AFP prioritisation and referral guidelines.

Electoral reform programme

In 2014–15, an essential part of election planning and preparations included the implementation of a significant range of reforms arising from the Inquiry into the 2013 Western Australian Senate election (the Keelty Report) and reports by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).

The reforms cover five major areas where deficiencies were identified:

  • logistics and materials management
  • contract management
  • ballot paper security
  • compliance with established processes and procedures
  • AEC culture.

During 2014–15, the interim policies, procedures, operating practices and supporting materials implemented at the 2014 Griffith by-election and 2014 Western Australian Senate election were evaluated and the AEC commenced planning for full implementation where appropriate.

To engage AEC staff in the changes occurring within the agency, a number of forums were conducted in each state and territory between December 2014 and June 2015. Designed to provide progress updates on the implementation of reforms and the development of new election policies and procedures, they were well attended by AEC executive staff, state managers, divisional office managers and other staff as appropriate.

Ballot paper handling policy

The ballot paper handling policy will govern the handling of ballot papers from printing through to statutorily authorised destruction. It will address security, packaging, labelling, transport, storage and tracking of ballot papers to ensure all ballot papers in the care of AEC are safe, secure and accounted for at all times. It will also consolidate many of the enhancements implemented at both the 2014 Griffith by-election and the 2014 Western Australian Senate election.

On 30 April 2015, a staff workshop was conducted in response to procedural changes to the parcelling and packaging of ballot papers to inform the implementation of the ballot paper handling policy. The workshop tested new election materials and processes and also helped to inform workforce planning considerations in preparation for the next federal election.

The AEC will also conduct a full test of ballot paper handling procedures with temporary election staff, including those with little or no previous election experience, in the 2015–16 financial year to compare the results from the previous workshop and to further inform future planning that will embed the new processes in the parcelling and packaging of ballot papers.

The ballot paper handling policy was scheduled for release to staff in July 2015.

Election readiness

Election planning and preparation is a continuous process that extends throughout the electoral cycle. During 2014–15, the AEC fundamentally reshaped its election planning and preparation processes to improve its long term planning and preparation for electoral events.

In October 2014, an external consultant was engaged to work with the agency to develop an election preparation blueprint that would provide a unifying set of principles for how the agency plans and prepares for electoral events.

Since introducing the framework, the AEC’s planning efforts have been synchronised across all levels of the agency for the first time. In addition, progress against the framework is reported each month and co-ordinated nationally, with clear roles and accountability assigned for completing planning and preparation tasks. As part of the framework, revised governance arrangements have been implemented. The National Election Manager (NEM) and the National Election Delivery Committee provide national oversight of key election planning and delivery activities across the agency.

Introducing the election readiness framework

The outcome of this review has been the implementation of a new election readiness framework, an important step in driving quality election planning and readiness across the agency. The key elements of the framework are shown in Figure 9.

The election readiness framework allows the AEC to prepare for the delivery of an electoral event seamlessly and comprehensively. It provides assurance to the Electoral Commissioner that the entire agency is at a level of election readiness to conduct a successful electoral event.

The election readiness framework improves the integration of the AEC’s functions by:

  • supporting a shared understanding of election readiness
  • providing better visibility of the actual state of election readiness
  • increasing recognition of the interdependencies between election readiness activities undertaken across the agency
  • aligning all of the AEC’s business processes against the compelling need to deliver successful elections.

As part of the framework, revised governance arrangements have been implemented. Election readiness is led by the First Assistant Commissioner, Election Operations and Reform. One of the key responsibilities of the First Assistant Commissioner is to be the NEM. The NEM is responsible for managing electoral events on behalf of the Electoral Commissioner. This role includes responsibility for both election preparation and election delivery.

The National Election Delivery Committee has also been established and provides national oversight of the AEC’s election planning, preparation, delivery and the coordination of activities in line with the Election Ready Road Map (ERRM).

Progress against the framework is reported each month and co-ordinated nationally, with clear roles and accountability assigned for completing planning and preparation tasks.

The Election Ready Road Map

At the core of the election readiness framework is the ERRM. The ERRM is a highly visible planning tool that presents the sequence of actions required across the agency to ensure the AEC reaches the desired state of election readiness.

Figure 9: Election Readiness Framework

Figure 9: Election Readiness Framework

Restructure of the Elections Branch

In early 2015, the Executive Leadership Team consulted with senior executive staff to determine what structure in national office would help the agency focus its resources on the change journey and ensure the agency was ready for the next federal election.

The split of the existing Elections Branch into two branches was one of the more significant changes to the national office structure. This split was in recognition of the expanded role of the branch in reforming electoral processes and the work being undertaken to implement the new election readiness framework. The two new ‘elections’ focused branches were the:

  • Election Reform Programme Branch, focused on the development of election policy, procedures, training and forms required to conduct federal electoral events as well as oversight of the electoral reform programme
  • Election Planning, Systems and Services Branch, focused on the implementation of the new election readiness framework along with a number of core inputs including the delivery of national election systems, election materials and national logistics activities.