Electoral roll management
The state of the electoral roll
The Commonwealth electoral roll is the list of voters eligible to vote at federal elections.
The completeness of the roll is measured by the enrolment rate – the percentage of eligible Australian electors who are enrolled.
The AEC maintains multiple streams of contact with eligible electors to encourage them to enrol and keep their enrolment up to date, including the Online Enrolment Service, the Federal Direct Enrolment and Update program, and the New Citizens Enrolment Program.
In September 2016, the AEC commenced using SMS and email where possible, as other means of contacting electors about their enrolment.
In 2016–17, the number of people enrolled rose by 180,000 to 15.9 million. This increase almost exactly matched the estimated increase in the eligible population. As a result, the enrolment rate remained high and relatively unchanged, closing the year at 95.1 per cent. Correspondingly, the number of eligible Australians who were not enrolled also remained constant, at around 810,000 as at 30 June 2017.
The Online Enrolment Service, and the Federal Direct Enrolment and Update program now represent almost 80 per cent of all enrolment activity. Only 20 per cent of electors submitted a paper-based claim for enrolment.
The enrolment rate is shown in Figure 5. The target is enrolment of 95 per cent of eligible Australians. More detailed data on enrolment, including monthly and quarterly enrolment statistics, are available from the AEC website.
Online enrolment exceeds 5 million
The total number of enrolment applications received through the AEC’s Online Enrolment Service exceeded 5 million in early 2017. This is a major milestone for the system and represented significant savings for the AEC.
The system includes an electronic signature capture that allows electors to sign their online enrolment form using a stylus, a mouse or their finger and then submit the enrolment electronically, without the need to print. This application provides an accessible online enrolment service for the public, particularly young Australians, many of whom expect to be able to conduct all their business and government transactions online.
Most AEC clients accessing the online service use a mobile or small-screen device, emphasising the shift away from paper-based transactions and highlighting the fact that maintaining your enrolment is simple, convenient and quick.
Figure 5: Enrolled rate – 9 October 2004 to 30 June 2017
Figure 6: Enrolled population – 9 October 2004 to 30 June 2017
Targeted enrolment programs
Youth enrolment remains a challenge for the AEC as Australians aged 18 to 24 years have lower levels of enrolment than the general population. Despite this trend, the AEC has increased enrolment rates for this demographic each year since 2012.
In 2016–17, youth enrolment fell slightly in the year after the election, from 87.4 per cent at 30 June 2016 to 85.4 per cent at 30 June 2017, but remained above the target rate of 80 per cent.
New citizen enrolment
Another important target group for AEC enrolment activity is new Australian citizens. In 2016–17, AEC officers attended 1,311 citizenship ceremonies and collected 105,263 enrolment applications from new citizens enrolling for the first time.
Around 91.2 per cent of new citizens enrolled within three months of attending a citizenship ceremony, compared with just under 92.5 per cent the previous year.
Electoral roll integrity
In 2016–17, to improve roll integrity, the AEC implemented two significant reforms arising from the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) Third Follow-up Audit into the Australian Electoral Commission’s Preparation for and Conduct of Federal Elections.
Improved transparency of enrolment performance
The ANAO recommended that the AEC increase transparency and drive improvement in enrolment rates by reporting and publishing against performance targets related to roll integrity.
In response, the AEC is now publishing quarterly divisional enrolment rates, enrolment performance indicators and associated performance outcomes on the AEC website.
Measuring accuracy of the roll
The ANAO also recommended that the AEC implement a more reliable method of estimating accuracy and completeness of the electoral roll, than the previous Sample Audit Fieldwork method.
In 2017-18, the Annual Roll Integrity Review will compare client names and addresses from other government agencies with the information on the electoral roll. The review will be more cost effective than the fieldwork method because it will leverage existing data holdings and use existing staff. It is also expected to be more accurate as it matches many millions of AEC and external agency records rather than relying on a sample of around 30,000, as was the case for the 2015 Sample Audit Fieldwork event. The fieldwork method will remain an option for possible future use in ad-hoc situations where a field-based mechanism is required.
Results of the Annual Roll Integrity Review will be published on the AEC website.
The Enrolment Quality Assurance Program is a national quality assurance program for enrolment application processing. Every month, the AEC selects a statistically valid random sample of enrolment forms processed. The program measures whether the applications were correctly checked on receipt and whether they have been processed accurately and completely. Error patterns are also scrutinised to identify opportunities for improvements in process, training or systems.
Results provide an estimate of the rate of processing correctness. Fields relating directly to voter entitlements (essential fields) are considered separately from other data (supporting fields). The performance targets are 100 per cent of enrolments processed without error in essential fields and 99.5 per cent processed without error in supporting fields. Results for enrolments processed in the year ending 31 March 2017, indicate that 97.5 per cent of enrolments were processed without essential field errors, and 92.8 per cent were processed without error in supporting fields.
The AEC also has performance indicators for timeliness of enrolment processing – aiming to process 95 per cent of enrolment claims within five days and 99.5 per cent within 30 days. In 2016–17, 69.1 per cent of enrolments were approved within five business days of receipt and 92.6 per cent were approved within 30 days.
Delays in enrolment processing were due to a range of election factors, including a requirement for more than 370,000 declaration envelopes to pass through declaration exchange and scrutiny before enrolments could be processed. During 2016–17, these envelopes made up almost one-quarter of all enrolments processed that were subject to the timeliness performance measures.
Processing timeliness improved once election processes were completed. For the six months from January to June 2017, 96.9 per cent of enrolments were approved within five business days of receipt and 99.6 per cent were approved within 30 days.
The AEC takes any allegation or suspicion of enrolment fraud very seriously.
Responsibility for examining and analysing allegations of enrolment fraud lies with the Electoral Integrity Unit. This includes an assessment as to whether a specific enrolment fraud allegation should be referred to the Australian Federal Police for investigation.
Where an enrolment fraud matter has been referred to the Federal Police, the integrity unit provides the police with enrolment information and police statements to support the possible prosecution of offenders. As at 30 June 2017, three enrolment fraud matters referred to the Federal Police were being prosecuted in Australian courts.
Electoral roll products and services
The AEC provides a wide range of roll products and services to state and territory electoral authorities, other government departments and agencies, federal parliamentarians, political parties, medical and electoral researchers, and private sector organisations. These services are provided in accordance with the Electoral Act, under agreement and for an authorised purpose.
In 2016–17, the AEC supported three state elections and provided 1,403 extracts of roll information.
State and territory electoral roll products and services
The AEC manages and maintains the electoral roll on behalf of states and territories under agreements referred to as joint roll arrangements. In 2016–17, the AEC provided 766 roll information products, known as extracts, supporting 55 state, territory and local government elections.
Other electoral roll products and services
Under section 90B of the Electoral Act, the AEC is permitted to provide certain roll information to various legislated recipients for authorised purposes.
Members and Senators
Members and Senators are entitled to receive roll information in accordance with subsection 90B(1) of the Electoral Act. The AEC provided 315 roll extracts in 2016–17. A full breakdown of roll information provided is available in Appendix B.
Federally registered political parties are entitled to receive electoral roll information in accordance with subsection 90B(1) of the Electoral Act. In 2016–17, the AEC provided 265 roll extracts to registered political parties. A full breakdown of roll information provided is available in Appendix C.
Government departments and agencies
Government departments and agencies are entitled to receive electoral roll information if they are a ‘prescribed authority’, under subsection 90B(4) of the Electoral Act.
The AEC can directly enrol or update enrolment details of eligible electors based on information from other government agencies
The AEC provided 42 roll extracts to 14 government departments and agencies in 2016–17. Each department and agency provided justification for access by reference to its statutory functions and the Privacy Act 1988. A full breakdown of roll information provided is available in Table 31 in Appendix D.
Medical and electoral researchers are permitted access to electoral roll information under subsection 90B(4) of the Electoral Act. This information is commonly used to identify participants for research projects and surveys. Before they can access roll data, researchers must undergo an approval process. This includes scrutiny by a human research ethics committee and agreement on how the data will be used and protected.
In 2016–17, four medical researchers and one electoral researcher received electoral roll information. A full breakdown of roll information provided is in Table 32 in Appendix D.
Private sector organisations
Under subsection 90B(4) of the Electoral Act, private sector organisations may 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 10 roll extracts to private sector organisations. A full breakdown of roll information provided is available in Table 33 in Appendix D.