Electoral communication

Format, frequency and truth

There is no limit in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act) regarding the amount, the format or the timing of electoral communication.

The AEC also has no role in regulating the political content of electoral communications. A federal election is a contest of ideas and it is the role of each voter to take the time to consider if the information is:

Reliable

Is it from a reliable source?

Current

When was it published?

Safe

Could it be a scam?

We all play a role

There are varying roles for everyone to play in the appropriate distribution, regulation and assessment of political communication.


Anyone intending to communicate regarding an election or referendum must ensure the communication is appropriately authorised. The Electoral Act requires electoral communications to be authorised so people can know the source of the communication they are consuming.

Authorisation requirements apply to electoral communication made at any time and apply to modern communication channels and methods including online platforms, bulk text messages and robo-calls. The content of an authorisation statement varies according to who is communicating the electoral matter and the type of communication.

All campaign activities (e.g. erection of signage, positioning of campaign workers) must occur outside of six metres from the entrance to an early voting centre or polling place and must not obstruct a voter’s access to the booth.

Outside of the six metres, the placement of signage, positioning or behaviour of campaign workers is not regulated by the Electoral Act and therefore not a matter for the AEC. Depending on the nature of an issue, an enquiry could be made with the relevant local council or police.

How-to-vote cards

Political party workers outside the polling place may give voters a how-to-vote card, suggesting you vote for a particular candidate or party. You do not have to accept these cards.

How you choose to vote is your decision. While electors may choose to follow a how-to-vote card, the final decision regarding preferences is in the hands of each elector. As with other forms of election campaigning a how-to-vote card must be authorised.

In relation to text messages and telephone calls, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has previously advised that the SPAM Act and Do Not Call Register Act don’t apply to registered political parties. Political parties are also not subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act 1988.

The AEC does not disclose the telephone numbers of electors. The AEC has no knowledge of where or how a registered political party obtains telephone numbers of electors.

The AEC understands that some people will be unhappy with receiving unsolicited bulk communication from a political party. However, both ACMA and the AEC can only act on laws in place, which predominantly don’t prohibit such activity. The avenue available is to communicate with the person or entity that the material has come from to request your removal from their communication, or to contact your local member of parliament with a suggestion to change the law.

Postal vote applications from parties

Electoral law allows political parties or candidates to mail postal vote applications to you along with candidate and political party election campaign material.

  • All postal vote applications received back by parties are required to then be forwarded to the AEC for processing.
  • No postal voting packs are sent or received by political parties.

If you do not want to fill out forms provided by a party or candidate, you can apply to the AEC directly. The AEC does not include political party material with any of the forms or printed information that we send to voters.

The broadcasting blackout period is a provision under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, administered by ACMA. Election ads cannot be broadcast on television and radio from the end of the Wednesday before polling day until the close of the poll on polling day.

AEC TV

A shared responsibility, we all play a role in protecting the integrity of the voting process.

Updated: 15 September 2021
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