Electoral fraud affects results: Parliamentary Committee -- ‘Managing the roll’ (1 of 4)


Parliament of Australia
Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Chapter 2 of report, June 2001
Inquiry into the integrity of the electoral roll
       
   
   
   
   
   
 2 

Managing the roll

Fraudulent enrolment
2.1 As outlined in chapter one, for fraudulent enrolment to occur there has to be criminal intent. Fraudulent enrolment generally takes the form of:

— People deliberately enrolling themselves at a false address/in the wrong electoral district;

— People deliberately enrolling false names at real, or false, addresses; and

— People deliberately enrolling real (other peoples') names at real, or false, addresses.
1

http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/em/elecroll/chapter2.pdf
Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Canberra

2.2 False enrolment occurs if an elector is enrolled at the wrong address. This is generally the result of moving to another electoral division and failing to change one's enrolment details. False enrolment also occurs when people who are ineligible to enrol such as non-citizens do so. Non-citizens seeking to enrol often do so on the mistaken belief that as residents they are entitled to enrol and vote.2 Thus false enrolment is the product of a misunderstanding on the part of people enrolling as to their obligations, 'rather than deliberate attempts at fraud'.3 Indeed, as the Australian Electoral Officer for Queensland, Mr Bob Longland, pointed out, enrolling
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1 Legislative Assembly of Queensland Legal, Constitutional and Administrative Review Committee. September 2000. Inquiry into the prevention of electoral fraud: Issues Paper. Brisbane, LCARC, p 13.
2 Transcript p 134 (R.Patching).
3 Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. 1997. The 1996 Federal Election: Report of the Inquiry into the conduct of the 1996 Federal Election and matters related thereto. Canberra, AGPS, p 5.


MANAGING THE ROLL 14
to vote and changing enrolment details may assume a low priority for many Australians.4
2.3 In its 1996 Federal Election Inquiry Report the committee sought to rectify the tardiness of many Australians to keep their enrolment details up to date by recommending electors be required to re-enrol within one month of changing address anywhere in Australia, a recommendation supported by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).5 This provision was included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1998, but was defeated in the Senate on 15 February 1999.

Defining enrolment fraud
2.4 The AEC informed the committee that the procedures for additions, amendments and deletions from the electoral roll are contained in the General enrolment manual, a detailed document that is drawn from legislation but includes principles and practices directed to properly enrolling voters and maintaining the roll.6
2.5 The emphasis in the General enrolment manual is on voters being correctly enrolled. As a result, it does not specifically define fraudulent enrolment, but it does provide information about what to do if an enrolment form is defective or is not properly witnessed.7
2.6 When questioned about whether the AEC had a definition of enrolment fraud at the 3 April 2001 public hearing, the AEC responded: Not specifically to enrolment ... there is the general fraud control policy of the AEC.8
2.7 The AEC's Fraud control plan 1997-1999 defines fraud using the definition contained in the Fraud control policy of the Commonwealth (see chapter 1). 9

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4 Transcript p 41 (AEC). 5 Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. 1997. The 1996 Federal Election: Report of the Inquiry into the conduct of the 1996 Federal Election and matters related thereto. Canberra, AGPS, p. 20. 6 Submissions p S843 (AEC), and Transcript p 548 (AEC). 7 Transcript p 548 (AEC). 8 Transcript p 548 (AEC). 9 Australian Electoral Commission. 1998. Fraud control plan 1997-1999. Canberra, AEC, p 7; see also Commonwealth Law Enforcement Board. 1994. Best practice for fraud control: Fraud control policy of the Commonwealth: Incorporating an Interim Ministerial Direction on fraud control. Canberra, AGPS, p 3.


MANAGING THE ROLL 15

2.8 This definition is intended to include both monetary and intangible benefits, including any benefit that could be gained from the Government.10
2.9 Clearly, enrolment fraud falls within the definition of fraud in the current AEC Fraud control plan 1997-1999.

Extent of enrolment fraud
2.10 A threshold issue for the committee as part of this inquiry is the actual level of fraudulent enrolment. While the committee never intended investigating all allegations of electoral fraud, through evidence received it was able to obtain an overview of the extent of enrolment fraud.
2.11 As part of its initial submission to the inquiry, the AEC compiled a list of all possible cases of enrolment fraud it has on record for the decade 1990- 2000. This list comprises 71 cases in total. Almost three-quarters of the cases came from NSW (47 cases), while there were 18 cases in Queensland, five in Victoria, three in the Northern Territory, three in Western Australia, and one in South Australia.11 The AEC advised that the 71 cases of possible enrolment fraud were drawn to the attention of the AEC in the following ways:
— AEC roll review procedures, including Continuous Roll Updating (CRU) (35 cases);
— information provided by the public (15 cases);
— information provided by Members of Parliament (10 cases);
— information provided by other government agencies investigating other offences (eight cases); and
— information from press reports (three cases).12
2.12 According to the AEC, the majority of cases it detected appear to have been for the purposes of:
— identity fraud on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll for criminal purposes, or to test the system;
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10 Commonwealth Law Enforcement Board. 1994. Best practice for fraud control: Fraud control policy of the Commonwealth: Incorporating an Interim Ministerial Direction on fraud control. Canberra, AGPS, p 3. 11 Submissions pp S974-S980 (AEC). 12 Submissions p S883 (AEC).


MANAGING THE ROLL 16
— enrolment forgery for the purposes of party preselection ballots and local council elections; and
— false enrolments transferring the principal place of residence intended to affect results at local council elections and federal elections.13
However, the AEC did not provide details of the numbers in each category.
2.13 The AEC suggested that most cases of enrolment fraud are in support of 'criminal or nefarious intentions such as under-age entry to licensed premises, immigration fraud, or social security fraud, or to "test the system" ' 14 , rather than attempts to affect federal election results.
2.14 From these statistics, the AEC estimates that on average there is about one fraudulent enrolment for every 200,000 enrolments.15 The AEC concedes that there will always be a few cases of fraud that it cannot detect through its own procedures, particularly cases of identity fraud.16
2.15 The Shepherdson Inquiry report was able to identify within the terms of reference of that inquiry a series of cases of enrolment fraud, namely:
— Townsville in 1996;
— Mundingburra in 1996;
— East Brisbane in 1993;
— South Brisbane in 1986;
— Springwood in 1997;
— East Brisbane in 1996;
— the Budd family enrolments; and
— the Elder family enrolments.17
2.16 The number of false enrolments detected by the Shepherdson Inquiry in each of these cases was not large, ranging from two (Mundingburra in 1996) to about 25 (Townsville in 1996). With the exception of Mundingburra in 1996 and the Budd and Elder family enrolments, all of

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13 Submissions p S874 (AEC). 14 Submissions p S833 (AEC). 15 Transcript p 541 (AEC). 16 Submissions p S874 (AEC). 17 Queensland Criminal Justice Commission. April 2001. The Shepherdson Inquiry: An investigation into electoral fraud. pp XIV-XVII. www.cjc.qld.gov.au/shepinquiry/finalreport.pdf.
MANAGING THE ROLL 17
these cases relate to internal party preselection ballots (see chapter 1). The report indicated that:
The information gathered during the inquiry clearly established that the practice of making consensual false enrolments to bolster the chances of specific candidates in preselections was regarded by some Party members as a legitimate campaign tactic. No evidence, however, was revealed indicating that the tactic had been generally used to influence the outcome of public elections. Where it was found to have been used in public elections, the practice appeared to be opportunistic or related to the family circumstances of particular candidates rather than systemic or widespread.18
2.17 Other witnesses to the committee's inquiry alleged that enrolment fraud was far more extensive. Ms Karen Ehrmann, in her evidence before the committee on 14 December 2001, indicated:
... Everyone was doing it. It was encouraged and condoned by people at the highest level in the Queensland parliament and the Labor Party ...19
2.18 Mr Robert Patching stated that, as Divisional Returning Officer (DRO) for Rankin, in the late 1980s he uncovered 218 non-citizens who had attempted to enrol.20 Mr Patching suggested that:
... if this figure can be extrapolated over an election period of 3 years it is possible that the number of persons gaining the right to vote by fraudulently stating their enrolment qualifications could be as many as 870 per election per division.21
2.19 In addition, in their evidence on 30 January 2001 in Sydney, Mr Steven Simat and Mr Nick Berman both argued that the integrity of the roll could not be guaranteed.22
2.20 During the inquiry, the committee also received evidence on a number of allegations of fraudulent enrolment in NSW, in particular in relation to local council elections.23 The committee did not investigate these
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18 Queensland Criminal Justice Commission. April 2001. The Shepherdson Inquiry: An investigation into electoral fraud. Brisbane, CJC, p XIV. www.cjc.qld.gov.au/shepinquiry/finalreport.pdf 19 Transcript p 141 (K.Ehrmann). 20 Submissions p S653 (R.Patching) 21 Submissions p S653 (R.Patching) 22 Transcript pp 430 and 435 (S.Simat and N.Berman). 23 Submissions pp S392-S393 (C.Stott), pp S546-S551 (D.Harwin), pp S702-S703 (S.Simat), pp S730-S743 (E.Brooks Maher), pp S1072-S1073 (R.Clark), and p S1277 (B.Horne).
MANAGING THE ROLL 18
allegations in any depth, and so cannot draw a conclusion on any of these allegations.
2.21 The enrolment fraud uncovered by both the AEC and the Shepherdson Inquiry occurred over a span of many years in diverse geographical locations. In each case, the number of false enrolments was not large. In comparison, the AEC notes that in the 1999-2000 financial year it processed 2.46 million enrolment forms.24
2.22 The former Australian Electoral Commissioner, Professor Colin Hughes, noted that substantial numbers of persons are needed in any attempt to alter the roll so as to influence the outcome of a federal or state/territory election.25 He stated that the ballots most vulnerable to fraudulent enrolments are party preselections and by-elections.26 As by-elections generally occur by themselves, Professor Hughes argues, that:
it is possible to concentrate all the resources of whatever group seeks to violate the integrity of the by-election, whereas at a general election they have to be spread thinly across the map, at the very least over a substantial number of marginal seats.27
2.23 Professor Hughes noted that the possibility of overturning a general election result and ejecting the elected government through a by-election whose outcome was influenced by fraudulent enrolments has not occurred at the federal level.28 However, he noted that the possibility has occurred at the state level in the Queensland state seat of Mundingburra in 1996. 29
2.24 Whilst the allegations of fraudulent enrolment in Queensland have achieved the most prominence, the evidence leads the committee to believe that this practice is not confined to Queensland. Although this practice does not occur on a large scale, the committee concurs with the report of the Shepherdson Inquiry, in which the Hon Tom Shepherdson QC stated:
... I do not consider that the small numbers of persons who engaged in this practice, as disclosed by the evidence at the Inquiry, should necessarily lead the Australian Electoral Commission or the Electoral Commission Queensland to believe
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24 Submissions p S497 (AEC).
25 Submissions p S381 (C.Hughes).
26 Submissions p S382 (C.Hughes).
27 Submissions p S382 (C.Hughes).
28 Submissions p S384 (C.Hughes).
29 Submissions p S384 (C.Hughes).

MANAGING THE ROLL 19
that such conduct is relatively uncommon ... These unlawfully cast votes can prove decisive in polls where the margin between winning or losing is small. 30
2.25 Estimating the extent of potential fraud in any organisation, either public or private, is inherently difficult. 31 This is why the agency fraud risk assessment process is an important part of the Commonwealth's fraud control work. Risk assessment enables agencies to identify potential weaknesses in fraud controls and allows agencies to adjust resources and control mechanisms. 32 The risk assessment is part of the fraud control planning process and further details on this are contained in chapter 3.
2.26 The Fraud control policy of the Commonwealth makes it clear that chief executives of agencies have a responsibility to make fraud control a major responsibility of all staff.
33 An agency's attitude to fraud control is therefore critical to its success in preventing it. The AEC indicated that in relation to enrolment fraud, its normal processes were very good and that it was confident it had a first class electoral roll. 34
2.27 The committee believes that the AEC has to be careful that it is not too confident. A more circumspect attitude is more appropriate in the light of the Shepherdson Inquiry and this inquiry's work. The AEC's attitude leads the committee to question the adequacy of the AEC's assessment of the risks in relation to the integrity of the electoral roll.
2.28 The issue at hand, then, is the adequacy of the AEC's procedures and the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act) to detect and prevent fraudulent enrolment so that the Australian community can be confident that enrolment fraud will not become a problem.

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30 Queensland Criminal Justice Commission. April 2001. The Shepherdson Inquiry: An investigation into electoral fraud. p 166. www.cjc.qld.gov.au/shepinquiry/finalreport.pdf
31 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Banking, Finance and Public Administration. November 1993. Focusing on fraud: Report on the inquiry into fraud on the Commonwealth. Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia, pp 8-9.
32 Commonwealth Law Enforcement Board. 1994. Best practice for fraud control: Fraud control policy of the Commonwealth: Incorporating an Interim Ministerial Direction on fraud control. Canberra, AGPS, p 17.
33 Commonwealth Law Enforcement Board. 1994. Best practice for fraud control: Fraud control policy of the Commonwealth: Incorporating an Interim Ministerial Direction on fraud control. Canberra, AGPS, p 2.
34 Transcript p 545 (AEC).

Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Canberra
http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/em/elecroll/chapter2.pdf

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