Electoral fraud affects results: Parliamentary Committee -- ‘Managing the roll’ (2)

Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Parliament of Australia, Canberra

Mechanisms for managing the roll

Current identification and verification procedures
2.29 At present, under section 93 of the Electoral Act, all persons are entitled to be enrolled on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll if they meet the following requirements:
— They have an identity;
— They have a real place of living, or possessed one in the past;
— They are over 18 years of age;
— They are an Australian citizen, or a British subject who appeared on a Commonwealth Electoral Roll immediately before 26 January 1984.
2.30 Under section 94A of the Electoral Act anyone who is currently living outside Australia is qualified to enrol as an elector from outside Australia if they:
— are 17 years of age or older and;
— an Australian citizen (or a British subject who was on the electoral roll on 25 January 1984) and;
— departed Australia within the last two years and intends to return within six years of the date of departure from Australia; and
— left Australia for reasons relating to their career or employment or that of their spouse.
2.31 Under section 93 (8) of the Electoral Act a person is not qualified to enrol:
— if because of unsound mind, is incapable of understanding the nature and significance of enrolment and voting; or
— is serving a sentence of five years or longer for an offence against the law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory; or
— has been convicted of treason and has not been pardoned.
2.32 Section 101 of the Electoral Act makes it compulsory for every person who is qualified to enrol as an elector to apply for enrolment within 21 days after becoming qualified to enrol. The penalty for failing to enrol is a fine
35 Australian Electoral Commission. 1998. Electoral Reform Implementation Plan. Canberra, AEC, p 2.

Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Canberra
of up to $50. Section 101 of the Electoral Act provides that any elector who changes his or her address must change his or her enrolment details.
2.33 An individual seeking to enrol must complete an Electoral Enrolment Form. Currently under section 98 (2) of the Electoral Act the form must be witnessed by an elector or person eligible for enrolment.
36 Under section 342 of the Electoral Act the witness must satisfy himself or herself that the information provided in the claim is accurate. Generally the witness is a spouse, friend or an AEC Officer. As the AEC points out, 'in the case of the AEC Officer witnessing, it is often the case that the applicant will not be known to the officer'.37 The officer witnessing is required under AEC procedures and section 342 of the Electoral Act to satisfy themselves that the details supplied by the applicant are correct either by asking the applicant to declare this or seeking some proof by sighting a photographic form of identity.
2.34 After the enrolment form has been correctly filled in and witnessed, it must be sent to the relevant DRO or Australian Electoral Officer who will forward it to the appropriate DRO. The DRO must be satisfied that the applicant is eligible to enrol according to the criteria above and the application is in order.
2.35 Information on the completed enrolment form is entered into the AEC's computerised Roll Management System (RMANS) at the divisional office, and 'an automatic match is made of the new application against existing records on RMANS for that person'.38 The AEC points out that 'previous enrolment records are held on-line back to 1997 in the case of South Australia, and at least to 1991 for all other States and Territories'.39 On the RMANS database enrolment records are identified as 'being on the Current File, the Deleted File or the Archived File'. 40 If a match is found with a record on the Current File, 'the information on the new application is linked, and the matched previous record is moved to the Deleted File'.41 If a match is found with a deleted record where the reason for deletion is the elector is deceased, RMANS provides a warning that is followed up by divisional staff.42 If there is no match with existing records, the enrolment

36 Section 98 (2) Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. 37 Australian Electoral Commission. 1998. Electoral reform implementation plan. Canberra, AEC, p 5. 38 Submissions p S502 (AEC). 39 Submissions p S502 (AEC). 40 Submissions p S502 (AEC). 41 Submissions p S502 (AEC). 42 Submissions p S503 (AEC).
is 'flagged as new to RMANS'.43 Once this process is complete and the DRO is satisfied, the applicant is then entered on the roll for a Subdivision of that particular Division. The applicant is then notified in writing of their enrolment in that Subdivision.

The Roll Management System
2.36 As of 30 March 2001 12,484,981 people were enrolled on the roll.44 In the 1999-2000 financial year the AEC processed 2.46 million enrolment forms, which included the following transactions:

Table 2.1 Total enrolment forms processed by AEC, 1999-2000
Enrolment Transactions Number of Transactions
New Enrolments 319,637
Re-enrolments 178,163
Re-instatements 22,446
Interstate Transfers 153,060
Intrastate (between divisions) Transfers 660,506
Intradivisional Transfers 961,538
No change Enrolments * 167,906
Deletions (objections, deaths, duplications) 329,219
Total 2,463,256
(* No-change enrolments occur when electors notify the AEC of a variation to their personal details) Source AEC 2000, Annual Report 1999-2000, Canberra, p. 23.

2.37 The AEC described the electoral roll as: a "continuous" document, with enrolment additions, transfers and deletions occurring as a continuous stream of changes, rather than a "static" document compiled at one time for a particular electoral event.45
2.38 According to the Australian Electoral Officer for Queensland, Mr Bob Longland, the major problem in managing the roll is:

43 Submissions p S503 (AEC). 44 Australian Electoral Commission. Enrolment statistics at 30 March 2001. http://www.aec.gov.au/enrol/stats.htm 45 Submissions p S497 (AEC).

What we are doing is proving the roll, a very dynamic document, is never up to date, because people move and the enrolment card is one of the low-level things on their list.46
2.39 The AEC attempts to maintain the accuracy of the electoral roll through ongoing reviews of the roll. Reviews are increasingly carried out via data-mining of the AEC's RMANS, on which the publicly available name and address information of all electors is stored, data-matching with other Commonwealth and State-Territory agencies, mailouts and targeted fieldwork involving door knocks. Anomalies uncovered through data-mining and data-matching activities trigger further inquiries as to the accuracy of details recorded for a particular elector. If the AEC learns that an elector is no longer living at their enrolled address, a notice is sent to the elector advising them to update their enrolment details or risk being removed from the roll. On the basis of death notices and information from relatives or State Registrars of Deaths, the AEC also removes on a regular basis the names of those who have died.47 In addition, the AEC engages in direct enrolment and enrolment marketing activities.
2.40 In 1997 the AEC introduced an address-based enrolment system, the RMANS Address Register. Previously addresses claimed for enrolment needed only to match known streets and localities. Under the Address Register, however, the AEC is able to strictly control the confirmation of addresses, 'as each address is now recorded separately on the Register, whether or not the address is occupied by electors'.48 The Register identifies each separate address and 'lists a range of attributes including a land code use, occupancy status, an enrolment limit, the last review date, and whether the address is habitable and 'active', that is, valid for enrolment'.49 In addition, the Address Register enables additional geographic data and related locality information to be stored against addresses and 'to include an enrolment turnover indicator'.50 All addresses held by the AEC are matched with the Australia Post National Address File.
2.41 The RMANS Address Register enables the AEC to 'identify addresses that are incorrectly described or duplicated on the Register, those that have a high number of enrolments and/or an abnormally high turnover of electors, and those that have two or more groups of electors resident with

46 Transcript p 41 (AEC). 47 Australian Electoral Commission. 2001. Fact sheet: Electoral roll review. http://www.aec.gov.au/pubs/factfiles/factsheet11.htm 48 Submissions p S509 (AEC). 49 Submissions p S509 (AEC). 50 Submissions p S509 (AEC).
different family names'.51 These anomalies are then examined by AEC divisional officers through mailouts and fieldwork. The AEC believes the RMANS Address Register is:
an increasingly powerful tool available to the AEC to detect and deter fraudulent enrolment, enabling staff to check the validity of addresses and to take follow-up action when claims on enrolment forms are at variance with the information on the Register, such as in cases of possible suspicious enrolment at any particular address.52
2.42 Prior to the implementation of the RMANS Address Register, the AEC conducted an Electoral Roll Review every two years to check the accuracy of the electoral roll. By the AEC's own admission, this periodic snapshot of the roll became rapidly dated.53 The implication of this is that, prior to the implementation of the RMANS Address Register, the opportunities for enrolment fraud were greater than they are now. The AEC confirmed that this was the case, pointing out that the Ehrmann, Kehoe and Foster cases would have been detected using the currently available mechanisms, such as the RMANS Address Register.54
2.43 Under section 84 of the Electoral Act the Commonwealth has entered into Joint Roll Arrangements with all States and Territories. Joint roll arrangements have been in operation with Tasmania since 1908, South Australia since 1920, New South Wales since 1927, Victoria since 1952, Western Australia since 1983, the Northern Territory since 1989, Queensland since 1992 and the Australian Capital Territory since 1994. The nature of these arrangements, however, differs among the States and Territories. Victoria and Western Australia, for example, maintain their own state rolls but the AEC has day-to-day responsibility for the collection and processing of roll information. 55 The other States and Territories do not maintain their own separate rolls, rather in each jurisdiction the AEC maintains a joint Commonwealth, State/Territory and Local Government roll with input from the respective State/Territory authorities.
2.44 Completed joint enrolment applications are processed into RMANS by AEC divisional officers. Information pertaining to the State/Territory rolls are extracted from RMANS and provided to State/Territory electoral

51 Submissions p S509 (AEC). 52 Submissions p S509 (AEC). 53 Submissions p S504 (AEC). 54 Submissions p S457 (AEC). 55 Australian Electoral Commission. 1999. Commonwealth electoral procedures. http://www.aec.gov.au/pubs/electoral_procedures/enrolment.htm.
commissions. The Joint Roll Arrangements have provided a single national enrolment system with 'almost identical eligibility criteria, a common enrolment form and the single entry into RMANS of enrolments'.56 This system enables the AEC and its State/Territory counterparts to continually improve the accuracy of the roll and to share some costs associated with maintaining the roll.

Continuous Roll Updating
2.45 CRU is a method of updating the roll using information sources that deal with changes of address, such as Australia Post, in order to pro-actively target with re-enrolment information electors who have moved. It also involves marketing of enrolment outside of election periods, and direct enrolment approaches at events such as citizenship ceremonies. CRU enables the AEC to 'effectively audit the moving population of electors'.57 There are five key elements to CRU:
— Data-mining;
— Data-matching;
— Direct enrolment;
— Marketing enrolment; and
— Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.58

2.46 The roll management system, RMANS, is the 'actual database' on which the roll is stored.59 The AEC is able to 'mine our own data to do the sorts of checks we used to find by accident'.60 The RMANS enables the AEC to analyse the data stored on RMANS in order to 'uncover aberrant data on the roll, which can direct fieldwork in a more cost efficient manner'.61 Both CRU data-matching and data-mining procedures are undertaken in regular cycles ranging from monthly to six monthly.
56 Legislative Assembly of Queensland Legal, Constitutional and Administrative Review Committee. March 2000. Report No. 19: Implications of the new Commonwealth enrolment requirements. Brisbane, LCARC, p 3. 57 Submissions p S505 (AEC). 58 Submissions p S505 (AEC). 59 Transcript p 56 (AEC). 60 Transcript p 56 (AEC). 61 Submissions p S509 (AEC).

2.47 Data-matching is the 'large scale comparison of records or files of personal information, collected or held for different purposes, with a view to identifying matters of interest'.62 Section 92 (1) of the Electoral Act enables the AEC to 'demand information from other agencies in relation to the preparation, maintenance or revision of the Rolls'.63
2.48 Following the endorsement by the Government of Recommendation 4 of the committee's 1996 Federal Election Inquiry Report suggesting an investigation into expanding the matching of enrolment data, data-matching has become 'an integral part of CRU'.64 However, the AEC stated that:
the prohibitive costs and the security issues involved have prevented the adoption of on-line connections to other departments and agencies for "live" interrogation of other databases'.65
Nonetheless, the AEC pointed out that CRU data-matching, 'at the level permitted by AEC resources, has yielded considerable benefits in improving roll accuracy'.66
2.49 At the Commonwealth level the AEC is involved in data-matching activities with Australia Post which provides change-of-address data, Centrelink which provides similar data, and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs which provides data on the citizenship status of overseas-born applicants for electoral enrolment.67
2.50 At the state level, the AEC is involved in data-matching with the Motor Registry authority in South Australia, the Residential Tenancy Authority in Queensland, the Western Australian Department of Land Administration and power utilities in Victoria through the State Electoral Commission.68

62 Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner. February 1998. The use of data-matching in Commonwealth administration — Guidelines. Sydney, Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner, p 3. 63 Australian Electoral Commission. Submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration Review of the ANAO Report No. 37 1998-99 on the Management of Tax File Numbers. paragraph 4.3. 64 Submissions p S506 (AEC). 65 Submissions p S506 (AEC). 66 Submissions p S506 (AEC). 67 Submissions p S507 (AEC). 68 Submissions p S507 (AEC).
2.51 Arrangements are generally negotiated separately with the agencies directly by the AEC or through the relevant State/Territory electoral commission. In addition, section 108 of the Electoral Act requires State Registrars-General to provide the AEC, through its DROs and the Australian Electoral Officer in each state and the Northern Territory, with death data in each Division.
2.52 Data-matching activities undertaken by the AEC are not regulated by the Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 as these activities do not involve the use of Tax File Numbers. However, the Federal Privacy Commissioner oversees CRU data-matching activities 'as necessary'.69
2.53 The AEC pointed out that by taking advantage of ongoing IT development the RMANS system could be upgraded 'to increase the frequency and improve the precision of reports generated for roll auditing purposes, to improve the accuracy of the roll and to detect enrolment fraud'.70 The AEC noted that such an upgrade 'would be expensive and is presently beyond AEC resources'.71 The AEC estimated that an upgrade of RMANS to 'allow increased frequency and refinement of RMANS reports to track the moving population of electors, and the development of electronic signature verification online in Divisional offices, for example', would require extra ongoing funding of $25 million per annum.72
2.54 The AEC also pointed out that with additional legislative powers and appropriate privacy regulation, it could upgrade CRU data-matching to include the Australian Taxation Office for example.73 The AEC suggested the committee consider recommending additional funding for upgrading RMANS data-processing and CRU data-matching.74 The AEC indicated it will submit 'a more detailed accounting, and consult with the Privacy Commissioner about the legal requirements for extended data-matching'.75
2.55 The committee supports the conducting of a study to ascertain the financial cost and legislative requirements for upgrading RMANS and expanding CRU data-matching.

69 Submissions p S506 (AEC). 70 Submissions p S522 (AEC). 71 Submissions p S523 (AEC). 72 Transcript p 58 (AEC). 73 Submissions p S840 (AEC). 74 Submissions p S841 (AEC). 75 Submissions p S841 (AEC).
Recommendation 1
2.56 That the Australian Electoral Commission investigate and report on the financial cost, legal requirements, privacy implications and priorities for upgrading RMANS data-processing and expanding Continuous Roll Updating data-matching.
Direct enrolment
2.57 The AEC conducts a number of direct enrolment activities as part of the CRU process. The AEC has negotiated with a number of other Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies to incorporate enrolment cards and electoral information with their procedures.
2.58 Direct enrolment activities include the provision of pre-printed enrolment cards to all new Australian citizens at citizenship conferral ceremonies. At some citizenship ceremonies AEC staff are present to collect the enrolment cards and provide advice to new electors. Other types of direct enrolment are the use of a common change of address form for a number of state and territory government transactions as well as enrolment, and the provision of enrolment cards and electoral information in results packages sent to final year students in Queensland by the Board of Secondary Studies.76 The Victorian Electoral Commission sends birthday cards with an enrolment card to all 18 year olds.77 The AEC noted that 'all these CRU initiatives are providing excellent returns as people respond to the convenience of the enrolment facility being provided directly to them'.78
2.59 In its report on the Continuous Roll Update program for 1999, however, the Electoral Council of Australia identified the following issues arising from Change of Address (COA) and Vacant Address Mailing (VAM) activities:
— The most effective response rate is in the two months after mailing;
— Response rates for the different States and Territories over the response stages are sufficiently different to be further investigated for specific enrolment environment anomalies;
— COA and VAM mailings are not reaching the 17 to 18 year olds;
— Further national sources of data are required for CRU; and
76 Submissions pp S511-S512 (AEC). 77 Submissions p S512 (AEC). 78 Submissions p S512 (AEC).
— Follow up activities are likely to increase the response rate.79
2.60 The Electoral Council of Australia stated that the 17 to 21 year old proportion of the population is 'well recognised as being under enrolled and difficult to effectively target enrolment activities'.80 The Electoral Council noted that Australia Post advised that its research indicated that 18 to 21 year olds 'may not purchase change of address services', and 'may not respond to or be identified by vacant address mailings'.81 State and Territory CRU activities using external databases are, according to the Electoral Council, the 'most effective in targeting the youth enrolment sector through access to motor registry and education department records'.82 Accordingly the Electoral Council recommended that: special enrolment services to reach the 17 to 21 year olds should be undertaken with emphasis on obtaining data from State and Territory agencies such as motor registries and education departments.83

Marketing enrolment
2.61 The AEC pointed out that enrolment is 'not marketed other than in the context of roll closes for elections'.84 In relation to youth enrolment, the AEC noted that 75% of new enrolments for the 1999 federal referendum came from 18 and 19 year olds.85 Although encouraging people to enrol or update their enrolment details during the close-of-rolls period is 'vital to ensuring that all eligible electors are able to exercise their franchise', the AEC suggested that 'the early release of the election funds that pay for these enrolment drives might assist in raising the awareness of the
79 Electoral Council of Australia. December 1999. Report of the 1999 Continuous Roll Update Activities to update the electoral roll for the Commonwealth, States, Territories and Local Government. p 6. http://www.eca.gov.au/reports/1999_cru_report.pdf 80 Electoral Council of Australia. December 1999. Report of the 1999 Continuous Roll Update Activities to update the electoral roll for the Commonwealth, States, Territories and Local Government. p 24. http://www.eca.gov.au/reports/1999_cru_report.pdf 81 Electoral Council of Australia. December 1999. Report of the 1999 Continuous Roll Update Activities to update the electoral roll for the Commonwealth, States, Territories and Local Government. p 24. http://www.eca.gov.au/reports/1999_cru_report.pdf 82 Electoral Council of Australia. December 1999. Report of the 1999 Continuous Roll Update Activities to update the electoral roll for the Commonwealth, States, Territories and Local Government. p 6. http://www.eca.gov.au/reports/1999_cru_report.pdf 83 Electoral Council of Australia. December 1999. Report of the 1999 Continuous Roll Update Activities to update the electoral roll for the Commonwealth, States, Territories and Local Government. p 7. http://www.eca.gov.au/reports/1999_cru_report.pdf 84 Submissions p S512 (AEC). 85 Submissions p S511 (AEC).

Australian population as to their rights and obligations to enrol at the appropriate time'. 86
2.62 The committee is of the view that more information is required as to how the enrolment of groups such as 18 to 21 year olds and indigenous Australians, generally recognised as being under enrolled, can be enhanced and the costs involved.

Geographic Information Systems
2.63 The AEC stated that a 1995 consultancy report to the Electoral Council of Australia recommended the incorporation of GIS in the CRU processes. 87 GIS are replacing maps as the primary form of geographical identification. Two pilot studies incorporating GIS with CRU activities have been approved by the AEC, one in Queensland using an off-the-shelf GIS package that has been successfully implemented, and the other in NSW that will use a custom-designed GIS package that is not yet available. The AEC pointed out that 'the aim of the pilot is to test the value added by GIS technology to CRU in the management of the Roll'. 88 The AEC expects the evaluation of the pilot studies to be completed by mid-2001.

Removing deceased electors
2.64 The AEC noted that 'an essential part of CRU data-matching is to identify and remove the names of deceased electors from the rolls'. 89 Under section 108 of the Electoral Act the AEC receives, through its DROs and the Australian Electoral Officer in each state and the Northern Territory, death data in each Division from State Registrars-General. This information is matched with the enrolment information on RMANS 'on an ongoing basis', and the 'details of matches are forwarded to the appropriate DRO for manual deletion'.90 In addition, DROs in each Division continually monitor death notices in newspapers and advice provided by relatives of deceased electors, and the 'confirmed information is applied to RMANS'. 91 In 1999-2000 there were 99,637 deletions from the electoral roll as a result of death. 92

86 Submissions pp S512-S513 (AEC).
87 Submissions p S513 (AEC).
88 Submissions p S513 (AEC).
89 Submissions p S507 (AEC).
90 Submissions p S508 (AEC).
91 Submissions p S508 (AEC).
92 Australian Electoral Commission. 2000. Annual report 1999-2000. Canberra, AEC, p 23.

Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Canberra


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