AEC functions

The functions we perform to deliver our purpose are:

  • ensuring confidence in the electoral roll
  • conducting successful electoral events, including federal elections, by-elections and referendums
  • administering political party registrations and financial disclosure
  • supporting electoral redistributions
  • undertaking public awareness activities

Active electoral roll management

The Commonwealth Electoral Roll—the list of Australians eligible to vote at federal elections—is integral to election delivery. The AEC’s key electoral roll activities are:

  • encouraging eligible voters to enrol and keep their enrolment up to date
  • targeted enrolment programs
  • enrolment processing
  • measuring accuracy of the roll

The AEC also supports state, territory and local government elections, by-elections and referendums by managing the electoral roll through joint roll arrangements.

Information from the roll is provided to authorised people and groups in accordance with the Electoral Act (see appendix C).

Highlights of the year

Largest ever electoral roll

Australia now has the largest and most complete Commonwealth Electoral Roll since Federation, with more than 16 million Australians enrolled to vote. The Commonwealth Electoral Roll grew by 253,000 in 2017–18, and the enrolment rate of 96.3 per cent continued to exceed the AEC’s target of 95 per cent. With the growth in the electoral roll, the number of voters missing from the roll has declined, from 810,904 in 2016–17 to 628,547 in 2017–18. The AEC’s ongoing efforts to encourage eligible electors to enrol and keep their enrolment up to date, and electoral events, such as by-elections and the marriage law survey help drive enrolments.

The Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey

In the lead-up to the marriage law survey, the AEC processed more than 930,000 enrolment transactions, delivering the single largest close of rolls in AEC history.

The AEC played a significant role in this unique and complex event, providing the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) with the electoral roll and conducting the largest ever ‘roll close’. This was a considerable logistical exercise, with a large proportion of the annual electoral roll workload undertaken in just two weeks. The timeframe was tight and the AEC’s early planning for a potential plebiscite proved invaluable.

The AEC provided services directly to 120,000 silent electors—those whose address does not appear on the electoral roll for reasons of personal safety. Unable to provide silent electors’ details to the Australian Bureau of Statistics under the Electoral Act, the AEC arranged for survey forms to be produced and sent directly to these electors.

The AEC also helped the ABS develop its remote area fieldwork strategy, assisted with IT security, and worked closely with the ABS media team to ensure consistency of messaging across agencies.

Annual Roll Integrity Review

Introduced in 2017–18, the Annual Roll Integrity Review (ARIR) replaced Sample Audit Fieldwork exercises. The ARIR measures the accuracy and completeness of the electoral roll, more efficiently and precisely.

ARIR compares client names and addresses from other government agencies with information on the electoral roll, and determines if electors are enrolled in the correct electoral division and at the right address. By comparing millions of data points, ARIR provides a comprehensive picture of the roll’s health.

Data highlights

  • The electoral roll is the largest and most complete since Federation with:
    • more than 16.1 million electors now enrolled, an increase of 253,000 voters since last year.
    • 96.3 per cent enrolment rate. This exceeds both the AEC’s target of 95.0 per cent and last year’s result of 95.7 per cent.
    • over 3 million enrolment transactions processed in 2017–18
  • 85% of elector initiated enrolment transactions are now completed online
  • 340 non-election roll information extracts provided to state electoral bodies under the joint roll arrangements. Roll data or extracts were provided to:
    • 32 registered political parties
    • 14 government departments
    • 37 other recipients
  • 98 roll closes to support:
    • eight federal by-elections
    • three state elections
    • 86 local government elections
    • the marriage law survey
  • During the marriage law survey the AEC:
    • processed 933,592 transactions
    • received 3.3 million visitors to the AEC website
    • responded to 7,725 email enquiries
    • engaged in 630 social media interactions
    • responded to 55,034 phone calls
    • provided services to over 120,000 silent electors

For more information go to:

Conducting successful electoral events

The AEC provides polling services for federal elections, by-elections and referendums. It is compulsory for all eligible Australian citizens to enrol and vote in these electoral events, so the AEC provides a range of voting options and monitors and responds to voter turnout and formality.

Outside of a full federal election, the AEC provides polling services for by-elections and conducts Senate special counts, which are usually triggered by parliamentary resignations.

The AEC also delivers elections for the Torres Strait Regional Authority board, and conducts elections and ballots for other organisations such as industrial elections, protected action ballots and fee-for-service elections and ballots.

Highlights of the year

Senate special counts

In 2017–18 seven senate recounts were triggered by parliamentary resignations following judgments of the High Court of Australia sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns.

The AEC was ordered to conduct special counts of formal 2016 Senate ballot papers to determine candidates elected in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

Special counts were conducted using data already taken from voter preferences on the ballot papers of votes cast at the 2016 federal election.

Once completed, results were provided to the High Court of Australia for consideration. (See Table 15 at appendix D.)

By-elections for the House of Representatives

In 2017–18, three by-elections for the House of Representatives were triggered by parliamentary resignations following judgments of the High Court of Australia. These were for the divisions of Batman, Bennelong, and New England.

The AEC applied significant resources from across the organisation to quickly declare the results, with all three by-elections declared within five days after polling day.

These by-elections demonstrate a clear demand for a range of voter services. Pre-poll and postal voting accounted for nearly one-third of all votes issued at by-elections, continuing the trend of increased early voting.

The results from the by-elections are in Table 16 at appendix D.

Managing our supply chain

The evaluation of the 2016 federal election highlighted the need to establish a professional, nationally-coordinated logistics capability to bring efficiencies and process improvements to the AEC’s supply chain management: the distribution and return of election materials and equipment to and from multiple locations. In 2017–18 procurements and contract negotiations for the new approach were an AEC priority.

Working with industry experts, the revised approach is integral to the AEC’s commitment to modernise the delivery of electoral events. Incorporating better practices to improve the cost, time and efficiency of transport and the integrity of the supply chain, these improvements bring national consistency to logistics planning and execution. They also create an ongoing supply chain capability and greater assurance of the AEC’s ballot paper principles.

The by-election for the division of Batman tested the new approach, with future by-election events providing further testing opportunities. Suppliers and service providers are already engaged and prepared for the next federal election which will be the first nationwide test of the new supply chain model performance statement (see performance statement).

Seven senate recounts and three by-elections for the House of Representatives were triggered by parliamentary resignations following judgments of the High Court.

Work priorities

This year has been a milestone for completing many of the work priorities, in preparation for the next federal election.

Conducting the previous federal election on 2 July 2016, the AEC’s election evaluation resulted in eight ‘lessons to be learned’ and 13 cross-agency Work Priority Projects. These work priorities focused around four key themes:

  • consolidate and coordinate
  • training and recruitment
  • communication and Information management
  • planning

These cross agency projects address the most pressing issues and targeted enhancements which emerged from the 2016 federal election, and will be implemented at the next federal election. Individual projects and associated activities are referenced in the performance statements.

Electronic Certified Lists

The AEC has been working to extend the use of electronic certified lists (ECLs) at the next federal election. ECLs, which replace printed certified lists, can have significant benefits in conducting electoral events. They can:

  • improve the voter experience and potentially reduce wait and queuing times
  • allow ballot paper stocks to be monitored in real time, reducing the amount of partially admitted votes1 at elections

While the current ECL system is not scalable to a national rollout, the AEC is more than doubling the number of ECLs for the next federal election deploying an estimated 3,900 ECL devices and 2,300 printers.

Polling place data analytics

The AEC worked with Deakin University to develop a computer based model of polling places to analyse the effect of different staffing levels on various polling place sizes. This data-analysis and adjustment to election planning parameters has the potential to reduce queues, better manage ballot paper stocks and improve the working hours of polling officials. Learnings from this work will be implemented at the next federal election.

Information communications and technology infrastructure and cyber security

A strong technology platform is vital to the AEC’s ability to quickly scale-up to deliver an election. During 2017–18 the AEC commenced work on a business case to modernise the main election and enrolment systems (see performance statement). In addition, the AEC began implementing changes to:

  • mobile end-user services for a temporary election event network
  • server, network and backup capability
  • version patching and image maintenance across cloud-based and on-premises equipment
  • information management systems

A strong technology platform is vital to the AEC’s ability to quickly scale-up to deliver an election.

Cyber security is critical to delivering federal electoral events. The AEC has been alert to cyber security for many years and consistently works to enhance its cyber security ‘posture’. This year, the AEC continued to work with external parties and stakeholders, such as the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), to maintain awareness of current attacks and trends.

This includes:

  • Security testing activities undertaken regularly using external authorities and experts to assure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of AEC systems
  • Implementing appropriate mitigation strategies to protect the AEC network, including the ASD ‘Top 4’ to mitigate cyber intrusions
  • Mandatory security awareness training for AEC staff
  • Continuing to improve the AEC’s technical and people capability to manage cyber risks

Industrial and commercial elections

During the year, the AEC conducted 1300 industrial and commercial elections or ballots, and replaced a legacy electoral event management system with a modern, fit-for-purpose system. Major components of the new system were implemented in October 2017, with the remainder finalised before 30 June 2018. (see performance statement).

Torres Strait Regional Authority elections

In 2017–18 a casual vacancy election was held for the ward of Erub Island. The declaration of results was signed by the returning officer on 29 September 2017.

Data highlights

This year the AEC conducted:

  • Three by-elections, with planning for another five to be held on 28 July 2018
  • Seven Senate special counts
  • 1300 industrial and commercial elections and ballots.
  • One Torres Strait Regional Authority election

For more information go to:

Undertaking public awareness activities

To support an Australian community that is well informed about electoral matters, the AEC delivers national training and education, community engagement and communication activities.

All Australian citizens aged 18 years and over are required by law to enrol and vote. Ensuring Australians know and understand this right and obligation requires the AEC to engage with the community and provide information and advice to all eligible voters.

The National Training and Education Unit (NTEU), established in early 2018 as part of the Organisational Design Review, centrally-leads and coordinates AEC internal training and electoral education to external audiences. Schools can visit the National Electoral Education Centre (NEEC) in Canberra for electoral education programs and the AEC for Schools website provides free educational resources and programs, including election materials to run school elections. Professional learning is provided to teachers to encourage electoral education in primary and secondary schools.

The AEC places strong importance on providing information and advice to voters, with consideration for those with diverse needs. Education and communication initiatives are in place to meet the needs of Australians with disability, and the AEC’s Indigenous Electoral Participation Program (IEPP) aims to increase electoral knowledge, enrolment, turnout and vote formality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Under section 7(1) (fa) of the Electoral Act the AEC provides assistance to international electoral management bodies. This is provided through the deployment of AEC officers overseas, the delivery of international training programs, and as hosts to international counterparts visiting Australia. These activities further strengthen our international relationships. The AEC, together with international partners, delivers the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) professional development program.

Highlights of the year

Electoral participation by Indigenous Australians

The Indigenous Electoral Participation Program (IEPP) delivers culturally appropriate services to Indigenous Australians to support Indigenous electoral participation. IEPP services are delivered Australia-wide. In 2017–18, the IEPP delivered services to support Indigenous electoral participation in three by-elections and the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, and implemented the national plan for 2017–18 in preparation for the federal election.

Cultural awareness training and staff development also continued as part of the AEC’s Reconciliation Action Plan.

Throughout the year, the AEC has started to adapt the delivery of IEPP services through greater use of national and regional partnerships.

These included:

  • development of two pilot programs in the Northern Territory to educate, enrol and increase electoral participation
  • the formation of the Indigenous Support Group in Western Australia
  • an Indigenous Employment Strategy which aims to employ an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander temporary election workforce of five per cent for the next electoral event. This strategy was activated for the Fremantle and Perth by-elections on 28 July 2018, achieving a 4.8 per cent Indigenous temporary election workforce.

Communication

In 2017–18 the AEC’s advertising, public relations and communication strategies focused on the marriage law survey, federal by-elections, Senate special counts and federal redistributions.

Media enquiries on eligibility under section 44 of the Constitution were frequent and information was provided to the media about the AEC’s role in conducting the Senate special counts. The results for each special count were published on the AEC website.

Work for delivery of the Your vote will help shape Australia communication campaign was completed for the next federal election to ensure messaging was clear and effective, and compliant with new Authorisation rules. Non-campaign newspaper advertisements supported federal redistributions, by-elections and party registration processes. Details of advertising payments are at appendix E.

Communications were prepared for the further five by-elections to be held on 28 July including for the close of rolls period and advice on the candidate qualification checklist.

International services

Through close cooperation with and funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) the AEC was involved in key activities in the Pacific Region including, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Tonga.

Through close cooperation with and funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade the AEC was involved in key activities in the Pacific Region.

The AEC worked with providers of international electoral assistance, including the:

  • International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
  • International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA)
  • United Nations Electoral Assistance Division (UNEAD)
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

In 2017–18, as a part of developing a new version of the BRIDGE curriculum, work continued on updating and consolidating modules.

With Australian Government bilateral assistance, the AEC engaged with electoral management bodies throughout the Pacific region in close cooperation with, and funded by, DFAT. Through the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators network (PIANZEA), which is funded by DFAT, the AEC provides secretariat services, representation on the network’s advisory group, and facilitation of peer to peer support for electoral administrators across Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, and the Pacific in regional groupings. In 2017–18 the AEC:

  • provided technical assistance to the PNG Electoral Commission in the lead up to, and during, the 2017 National Elections. This included assistance with training, operational support and the development of procedures and manuals
  • provided technical assistance to the Tonga Electoral Office to support the delivery of elections in 2017. This included operational support and material assistance
  • delivered a BRIDGE workshop on strategic planning and a PIANZEA Network meeting for senior election management staff from the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu
  • supported the Fijian Elections Office conduct an election simulation in February 2018. This included assistance with operational planning for logistics ahead of elections later this year
  • updated several modules of the BRIDGE curriculum. This included hosting a curriculum development workshop, in partnership with International IDEA, on the electoral costs and finances module.

The AEC hosted key international partners and study programs from several countries throughout the year. Participants met with senior executive staff and technical experts, arranged through the Australian Political Exchange Council, universities, and intergovernmental visits. Delegations included Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, the United States of America and Vietnam.

Data Highlights

Training

  • 240 AEC staff undertook the Election Readiness Program
  • 51 staff undertook the Election Experience Program

Education

  • The NEEC operated at full capacity, delivering 2,584 free education sessions to 90,500 visitors from all 150 electoral divisions
  • 75,264 primary schools students 7,413 secondary students and 7,886 adults visited the NEEC as part of their civics and citizenship studies
  • An average 9,000 online visitors per month to the Get Voting website
  • 275 election packs sent to schools through Get Voting
  • Around 100 educators completed Voting in the Classroom online learning module
  • Seven professional development sessions were provided to over 50 in-service teachers
  • Six universities were visited to talk to over 500 pre-service teachers
  • Three civics education conferences were attended with workshops provided to over 80 participants

Public engagement

  • During by-election events, public engagement services included 16 dedicated language-specific telephone interpreter information lines and a multi-language line, handling a total of 1029 calls, including 629 callers who used the translator service to speak directly to AEC staff
  • The top three languages used by the AEC’s telephone interpreter services were Mandarin (343 calls), Cantonese (155 calls) and Vietnamese (138 calls)
  • 130 media enquiries were received per week during the Marriage Law Survey

For more information go to:

Supporting electoral redistributions

A redistribution of electoral boundaries is undertaken in accordance with Part IV of the Electoral Act. Redistributions ensure—as close as practical—that an equal number of electors are in each electoral division for a state or territory. Each member in the House of Representatives represents an electoral division.

A redistribution is required when:

  • there is a change in the number of members in the House of Representatives to which a state or territory is entitled to
  • the number of voters in more than one third of the electoral divisions of a state deviates from the average divisional enrolment by over 10 per cent for a period of more than two months
  • seven years has elapsed since the last redistribution

The Redistribution Committee conducts redistributions. The committee comprises of the:

  • Electoral Commissioner
  • relevant state or territory:
    • Australian Electoral Officer
    • Surveyor–General (or equivalent officer)
    • Auditor–General

Highlights of the year

Redistributions

On 31 August 2017 the Electoral Commissioner determined that the number of members to be elected to the House of Representatives at the next federal election would increase from 150 to 151:

  • Victoria will increase from 37 to 38 members
  • South Australia decreases from 11 to 10 members
  • the Australian Capital Territory increases from two to three members.

In 2017–18 the AEC completed two redistributions: one in Tasmania and one in Queensland. Redistributions were commenced in the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and South Australia, and are expected to be finished in 2018. See appendix F for redistribution process milestones in 2017–18.

Data highlights

  • Two redistributions completed
  • Three redistributions commenced
  • 133 submissions considered
  • 151 electorates determined for the next federal election

For more information go to:

Administering political party registrations and financial disclosure

The AEC helps key stakeholders to carry out their obligations and responsibilities under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 2018. This includes maintaining the funding and disclosure scheme and providing information on the requirements for political party registration.

The AEC maintains the Register of Political Parties, and under the Commonwealth funding and financial disclosure scheme, requires groups and individuals to lodge annual or election period financial disclosure returns. Returns disclose detailed financial information about donations to political parties and election campaigns, and can be securely lodged online through the AEC’s eReturns system. The AEC undertakes annual compliance reviews of disclosure returns.

The AEC administers public funding for political parties and candidates contesting federal elections. The election funding rates are on the AEC website.

Highlights of the year

Review of political party eligibility

In 2017–18, the AEC reviewed the eligibility of political parties to remain on the register, under section 138A of the Electoral Act. These reviews were a significant AEC activity, contributing to a larger number of political party’s deregistering than in 2016–17.

Data highlights

  • Two new political parties registered
  • Eight political parties deregistered
  • Five applications requesting a review of a delegate’s decision not to approve an application for registration as a political party. Three were still under consideration at 30 June 2018
  • The number of returns lodged for the past three financial years is at appendix G

Financial disclosure returns

  • received 29 election returns
  • reviewed 670 annual financial disclosure returns and amendments
  • 80 per cent of returns completed online
  • 24 compliance reviews of disclosure returns resulted in 17 amended returns being lodged by the party or entity

For more information go to:

  1. Votes can be partially admitted for a range of reasons such as incomplete or incorrect completion of the declaration vote form, the voter was not enrolled or the vote was received too late
Figure 2: Australia’s 150 electoral divisions as at 30 June 2018
Australia’s 150 electoral divisions as at 30 June 2018