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


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

MANAGING THE ROLL 44
2.113 A majority of submissions, however, supported the implementation of the enrolment provisions of the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Act (No 1) 1999. 179 In response to an AEC request for comments from DROs on the first AEC submission to the current inquiry, four DROs, out of the ten DROs who responded, indicated their support for the new enrolment provisions. 180
2.114 Dr Amy McGrath recommended the Commonwealth Government override the concerns of the States and Territories about the implementation of the enrolment provisions of the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Act (No 1) 1999.
181
2.115 In order to alleviate public concerns about the potential for enrolment fraud and restore public confidence in the integrity of the roll, the committee supports the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Regulations 2000. The committee notes the various improvements by the AEC to maintaining the integrity of the roll through the RMANS and the CRU process and supports further enhancement of this process. The committee believes the amended regulations assist the continuous audit of the roll process by requiring more effective identity verification at the beginning of the enrolment process.
2.116 The committee also encourages the States and Territories to co-operate with the Commonwealth in implementing the amended regulations prior to the next federal election and in maintaining the Joint Roll Arrangements. Even if some States and Territories remain concerned with the potential impact on the franchise of the amended regulations and prefer to retain their enrolment criteria as it stood prior to the October 1999 Commonwealth amendments, which in effect would mean the (re)establishment of separate State and Territory Electoral rolls, the committee believes the Commonwealth should proceed with the implementation of the amended regulations.

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179 Submissions p S357 (C.Reimer), p S362 (L.Hewett), p S368 (B.Kirkpatrick), p S394 (Liberal Party), p S412 (A.McGrath), p S523 (G.Lucas), p S563 (M.Lamerton), p S575 (G.Smith), p S613 (A.McGrath), p S621 (J.Lloyd), p S650 (R.Patching), p S690 (K.Ehrmann), p S697 (P.Lindsay), p S726 (E.Brooks Maher), and p S1144 (J.Olsen).
180 Submissions p S1112 (AEC).
181 Submissions p S615 (A.McGrath).

http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/em/elecroll/chapter2.pdf
Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Canberra
MANAGING THE ROLL 45
Recommendation 4
2.117 That the States and Territories support the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Regulations 2000 and the Commonwealth proceed to implement the amended regulations in time for the next federal election.
Should any State or Territory prefer to retain their enrolment criteria as it stood prior to the October 1999 Commonwealth amendments and (re)establish separate State or Territory Electoral Rolls, the Commonwealth should proceed with the implementation of the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Regulations 2000.
2.118 Professor Colin Hughes believes the existing identification measures are adequate. 182 Professor Hughes believed that if the aim is to introduce more effective identification measures 'to protect the integrity of the electoral process', the amended enrolment provisions are merely 'halfway measures' and that a more comprehensive photographic based identification system would have to be implemented for both enrolment and voting. 183
2.119 A number of witnesses and people making submissions have argued that voters should be required to show some form of appropriate formal identification at a polling place before they are provided with ballot papers as a means of preventing fraud.
184 The AEC argued that while the introduction of such a system is not impossible, it would have significant start up and on-going costs, voter inconvenience, possible disenfranchisement and possible delays in the delivery of election results because of an increase in the level of declaration voting. 185 The committee is of the opinion that with the implementation of the new enrolment provisions, the introduction of voter identification is not warranted as a measure to deter fraud.
2.120 The DROs for Berowra, Banks and Werriwa suggested an alternative to voters showing some form of formal identification - the inclusion of date-of- birth on the Certified Lists of Voters for elections.
186 The AEC noted that the inclusion of date-of-birth and gender information on the Certified
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182 Submissions pp S678-S679 (C.Hughes).
183 Submissions pp S678-S679 (C.Hughes).
184 Transcript p 337 (P.Lindsay), Submissions p S1098 (AEC). For other support for this measure, see also Submissions p S363 (L.F.Hewett), p S370 (B.Kirkpatrick), p S411 (P.Brun), and p S1063 (R.Johnston).
185 Submissions p S516 (AEC).
186 Submissions p S1112 (AEC).

MANAGING THE ROLL 46
Lists is 'technically feasible'.187 The AEC indicated it would conditionally support the introduction of date-of-birth information on the Certified Lists.188 The committee is of the view that the inclusion of the gender and date-of-birth of electors on the Certified Lists would provide an instant and improved check on identity when voting. The inclusion of this additional information on the Certified Lists would enable polling officials to easily verify the identity of electors if required.
Recommendation 5
2.121 That the gender and date-of-birth of electors be included on the Certified Lists of Voters for elections.
Early close of rolls
2.122 The primary catalyst for enrolment is an electoral event. Section 155 of the Electoral Act provides that the rolls for an election close seven days after the issue of the writ. This statutory period was introduced following the 1983 election, when the rolls closed the day after the election was called. During this seven-day period the AEC receives the largest number of enrolments at any one time, 428,000 during the 1996 federal election and 351,913 during the 1998 federal election. Given the increased volume of enrolments during this period and the limited time frame, the AEC has admitted that detailed checking is 'virtually impossible'.189

Previous JSCEM federal election inquiry recommendations
2.123 In its reports on the conduct of the 1996 and 1998 federal elections the committee expressed its concern with the potential impact on the integrity of the roll of a large number of enrolments occurring during the seven-day period and the AEC's inability to carry out detailed checking. In its 1998 Federal Election Inquiry Report the committee noted that between the issue of the writs on 31 August 1998 and the close of rolls on 7 September 1998, the AEC received a total of 351,913 enrolment forms and that
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187 Submissions p S881 (AEC). 188 Submissions p S1112 (AEC). 189 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 14.


MANAGING THE ROLL 47
processing of these forms was completed by 9 September 1998. 190 In processing these forms the AEC admitted that:
There was checking done within the system that it is a legitimate address, but in that close of Roll period there is no field checking done.191
2.124 As part of the 1996 Federal Election Inquiry Report, the committee recommended that the rolls for an election close to new electors on the date of the issue of the writs, and for existing electors three days after the issue of the writs.192 In response, the Government proposed an amendment to the Electoral Act in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Act 1998 to make the close of the Roll three working days after the issue of the writ. This amendment was rejected during the amending Act's passage through the Senate. The committee made this recommendation again in the 1998 Federal Election Inquiry Report. In its response to the Report the Government supported this recommendation as 'the potential for enrolment fraud at the time of the close of rolls is sufficiently high to warrant this change'.193

Submissions to the current inquiry
2.125 The AEC noted that an early close of rolls:

would shut down a last-minute opportunity for electors to amend their enrolments to secure their franchise, and for new enrollees, particularly young people, to take up their franchise.194
Many electors will not keep their enrolments up-to-date at all times, and it has long been recognised that many electors will not attend to this legal requirement until it is absolutely necessary.195
The AEC also noted that no evidence has been produced to substantiate claims of widespread and organised conspiracies to defraud the roll
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190 Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. 2000. The 1998 Federal Election: Report of the Inquiry into the conduct of the 1998 Federal Election and matters related thereto. Canberra, CanPrint, p 14. 191 Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. 2000. The 1998 Federal Election: Report of the Inquiry into the conduct of the 1998 Federal Election and matters related thereto. Canberra, CanPrint, p 14. 192 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 14. 193 Government Response to Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters Report: The 1998 Federal Election. p 2. 194 Submissions p S515 (AEC). 195 Submissions p S515 (AEC).
MANAGING THE ROLL 48
during the close of rolls period.196 The AEC summarised its concerns regarding an early close of rolls as follows:
— The AEC believes the emphasis in the committee's 1996 and 1998 federal election inquiry reports on the lack of field checking during the close of rolls needs to be balanced by the ongoing improvements to the accuracy of the rolls through the developments in the RMANS and CRU processes and the absence of evidence of enrolment fraud during the close of rolls period;
— The early close of rolls 'will not improve the accuracy of the rolls for an election, simply because the need for field checking or any other kind of checking will be eliminated', and the AEC expects the rolls to be less accurate because there will be less time for existing electors to correct their enrolments and for new enrolments to be received;
— The AEC expects an increase in the level of declaration voting which would delay election results;
— The AEC is concerned with the potential impact on young people who typically are motivated to enrol for the first time during the close of rolls period; and
— The early close of rolls would 'place the federal electoral system out of line with some State and Territory close of rolls legislation, possibly leading to public confusion and complaint'.197
2.126 Professor Colin Hughes highlighted several problems with an early close of rolls. 198 Firstly, an early close of rolls 'prevents electors who have moved from re-enrolling for their new addresses and consequently being removed from their old addresses', thus increasing 'the pool of departed electors whose identities can be falsely assumed'.199 Secondly, Professor Hughes noted that those who wish to engage in an activity that is regulated only within fixed time limits will simply do so outside the regulated time period.200
2.127 A number of submissions supported an early close of rolls in line with the committee's 1998 Federal Election Inquiry Report recommendation.201 Dr Amy McGrath implied that the AEC's inability to check all enrolments

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196 Submissions p S515 (AEC). 197 Submissions p S516 (AEC). 198 Submissions p S679 (C.Hughes). 199 Submissions p S679 (C.Hughes). 200 Submissions pp S679-S680 (C.Hughes). 201 Submissions pp S88 (A.Viney), p S365 (A.Viney), p S412 (A.McGrath), p S621 (J.Lloyd) and p S697 (P.Lindsay).
MANAGING THE ROLL 49
during the close of rolls period provides an opportunity for enrolment fraud.202
2.128 In response to an AEC request for comments from DROs on the first AEC submission to the current inquiry, two DROs, out of the ten DROs who responded, indicated their support for an early close of the rolls.203 Mr Chris Goodwin, DRO for Berowra, recommended the close of rolls occur on the same day as the announcement.204 Mr Gray Franklin, DRO for Werriwa, recommended the close of rolls period be reduced from the present seven days.205
2.129 Mr Allan Viney noted that section 101 (4) of the Electoral Act provides that anyone entitled to enrol and transferring enrolment must do so within 21 days from the date of entitlement or transfer or be guilty of an offence.206 Mr Viney pointed out that many last minute enrolments lodged during the close of rolls period would be in breach of section 101 (4) of the Act.207 In addition, he noted an AEC submission to the committee in 1983 acknowledging the difficulty in verifying enrolments during the close of rolls period.208 Mr Viney recommended an ongoing advertising campaign to 'promote civic responsibility' in terms of encouraging those eligible to enrol or electors transferring enrolment to do so within the period specified in the Act.209
2.130 Mr Jim Lloyd MP, Member for Robertson, stated that the level of transactions during the close of rolls period provides 'little opportunity for a Member to contact new enrolees or to check the validity of such enrolments'.210 Mr Lloyd recommended closing the roll prior to the calling of writs, 'enabling the Member to check on the genuineness of enrolments within a reasonable timeframe'.211
2.131 Mr Peter Lindsay MP, Member for Herbert, recommended the closing of rolls 'immediately an election is called'.212

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202 Submissions p S422 (A.McGrath). 203 Submissions p S1112 (AEC). 204 Submissions p S1094 (AEC). 205 Submissions p S1097 (AEC). 206 Submissions p S365 (A.Viney). 207 Submissions p S366 (A.Viney). 208 Submissions p S366 (A.Viney). 209 Submissions pp S366-S367 (A.Viney). 210 Submissions p S621 (J.Lloyd). 211 Submissions p S621 (J.Lloyd). 212 Submissions p S697 (P.Lindsay).
MANAGING THE ROLL 50
2.132 To preserve the integrity of the roll, the committee reiterates the relevant recommendations of the 1996 and 1998 federal election inquiry reports.
Recommendation 6
2.133 That section 155 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 be amended to provide that for new enrolments, the rolls for an election close on the day the writ is issued, and for existing electors updating address details, the rolls for an election close at 6.00pm on the third day after the issue of the writ.
Access to the electoral roll
2.134 Another issue on which the committee has received a number of submissions is the public availability of the roll. Under section 90 of the Electoral Act, any organisation or person is entitled to inspect or purchase the latest prints of the Divisional rolls.213
2.135 The AEC is aware that the publicly available roll is being used for a range of mostly commercial purposes that are not consistent with the intention of the Electoral Act:
There are a range of uses which over time have grown from the existence and frequency ... of the electoral roll. Some you might say have a greater community good than others, but most of them are not electoral.214
2.136 The production of microfiche copies of the roll for the purposes of sale was stopped by the AEC in March 2000 on the basis that there was no clear legislative basis for the sale of microfiche rolls, and in response to increasing privacy concerns about the commercial exploitation of enrolment information.215
2.137 The withdrawal of the microfiche roll prompted a number of organisations to make submissions to this inquiry. These included:
— the National Missing Persons Unit, which pointed out that regular access to the microfiche roll by Non Government Organisations
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213 Submissions p S1077 (AEC). 214 Transcript p 586 (AEC), and Submissions p S1081 (AEC). 215 Submissions p S1077 (AEC).
MANAGING THE ROLL 51
involved in tracking missing persons provided them with the most reliable and current information available;216
— the Public Trustees Office of South Australia, which stated that it used the roll on microfiche to track will beneficiaries;217 and
— the Australian Bankers' Association, which indicated that banks have used the roll for the purposes of processing finance applications and combating fraud.218
2.138 A number of other organisations also expressed a similar concern about access to the microfiche roll.219
2.139 The proposed use of the rolls by the above organisations is not encompassed within the purpose for which personal elector information is collected by the AEC under the Electoral Act, that is, to establish a public roll of those people eligible to vote at elections for the federal parliament. Neither are they one of the permitted purposes inserted in the electoral and referendum regulations in recent years, which mainly relate to Commonwealth activities in the protection of revenue and the prosecution of crime:
If personal elector information ... is made available to organisations for purposes unrelated to the electoral process, it is possible that an increasing number of electors will avoid electoral enrolment because of the decreasing personal privacy entailed ... In general, the AEC is opposed to proposals that seek to expand the permitted uses for personal elector information, because a reduction in the completeness and accuracy of the Electoral Roll is a likely outcome.220
2.140 According to the Privacy Commissioner, because it is compulsory to provide personal information for inclusion on the roll, citizens have a strong expectation that this information will only be used for the purpose for which it was collected:
One of the fundamental principles of information privacy is that personal information that is provided by an individual for one purpose should not be used or disclosed for another unrelated
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216 Submissions p S7 (National Missing Persons Unit). 217 Submissions pp S553-S555 (Public Trustee). 218 Submissions p S360 (Australian Bankers' Association). 219 Submissions pp S768-S769 (Benevolent Society), p S783 (Vanish) pp S799-S800 (Rite Recovery Service), pp S1067-S1068 (Salvation Army SA Division), and pp S1279-S1302 (Sacred Heart College Foundation). 220 Submissions p S1078 (AEC).
MANAGING THE ROLL 52
purpose unless the individual has consented or there are sound public interest reasons for doing so. 221
2.141 The Privacy Commissioner stated that there is increasing evidence to suggest that the existing privacy regime, constituted in the privacy and electoral acts, is no longer effective in preventing inappropriate use of the roll. 222
2.142 Recommendation 53 of the committee's inquiry into the 1996 federal election was that sections 89 to 92 of the Electoral Act be reviewed to take into account developments in computer technology.
223 These sections also cover public access to enrolment information. The AEC indicated it had delayed the review because of intervening electoral events and committee inquiries, including the current inquiry. 224
2.143 When completed, the AEC will publish the review, entitled Review of the Legislation governing Access to Enrolment Information, as a research report on its internet site. The review will be provided to the committee, the Minister, and the Privacy Commissioner for consideration.
225 Judging by the comments of the Privacy Commissioner in his submission to this inquiry, the committee believes action on this issue should not be delayed much longer.
Recommendation 7
2.144 That the Australian Electoral Commission complete its review of sections 89 to 92 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 in sufficient time for the committee to consider this matter during the next federal election inquiry.
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221 Submissions p S630 (Federal Privacy Commissioner).
222 Submissions p S630 (Federal Privacy Commissioner).
223 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 94.
224 Submissions p S1083 (AEC).
225 Submissions p S1084 (AEC).

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

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