The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Modernisation and Other Measures) Act 2019
Updated: 12 March 2019
The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Modernisation and Other Measures) Act 2019 (the Modernisation Act) received Royal Assent on 1 March 2019.
The Modernisation Act introduced changes to the nominations process for elections, as well as measures to create efficiencies and consistency in the conduct of electoral processes.
The full range of changes include:
- The sum to be deposited for nominating for the House of Representatives is now aligned with the sum for the Senate at $2,000. These deposits are returned if a candidate is elected or gains more than 4 per cent of the total first preference votes.
- When nominating, intending candidates must complete a mandatory qualification checklist.
- The qualification checklist relating to eligibility under section 44 of the Australian Constitution is now compulsory for all candidates who wish to nominate for federal elections, includes mandatory questions, and requires a document to support a contention that a person has renounced or lost foreign citizenship.
- Any other documents may be provided to support contentions or expand on answers provided. The qualification checklist and additional documents will be published on the AEC website.
- The AEC will check that all mandatory questions have been answered (including that mandatory documentation has been provided where required) and will reject a nomination that does not comply with these requirements.
- Nomination forms are no longer produced at the declaration of nominations, and each candidate’s full residential address is not read out, however additional information will be declared by the Divisional Returning Officer or Australian Electoral Officer. This information includes each candidate’s name, the town or suburb of residence, the relevant state or territory, endorsing party or unendorsed, the group name (where relevant) and that ‘independent’ will be printed on the ballot paper (where relevant). Address details for a candidate who is a silent elector will not be released or declared.
- Greater flexibility has been provided to the Electoral Commissioner to determine the manner in which a nomination and deposit are lodged as well as the responsibilities for nominations. While there will be no change in these for the 2019 federal election, the AEC will now have the flexibility to prepare a method to accept nominations electronically and the fee other than by cash or cheque in the future.
- Pre-poll voting will start five days after the declaration of nominations (rather than four days). This recognises the increasing complexity with elections and the processing of nominations.
- The same six metre exclusion zone for activities such as canvassing for votes will apply to pre-poll voting offices and divisional offices during the pre-poll voting period as applies for polling places and mobile teams.
House of Representatives initial scrutiny
- The process for packaging House of Representatives ballot papers has been streamlined. Ballot papers in their counted bundles are secured inside a sealed container, rather than inside individual sealed parcels.
Forwarding of declaration votes
- Declaration ballot boxes will be opened in polling places and pre-poll voting centres operating on polling day. The declaration votes will be reconciled against records made for votes issued, sorted to the relevant division and sealed in a secure container for return to the Divisional Returning Officer. No declaration votes are counted in polling places, however this process will help ensure they can be forwarded to the owning division for counting as soon as possible after polling day.
- Authorised AEC officers can perform functions relating to declaration votes on behalf of a Divisional Returning Officer. This has two implications:
- Declaration votes received by any authorised representative nationally by Friday, the 13th day after polling day, are forwarded to the owning division for inclusion in the count. Previously it must have been in the hands of the owning division by the 13th day after polling day to be counted.
- Other officers can undertake required processes to complete declaration vote scrutinies, ensuring these votes are counted as quickly as possible.
- The preliminary scrutiny of declaration votes will now have an earlier commencement. Preliminary scrutiny and the recheck of rejected envelopes is allowed to commence any time from receipt of declaration envelopes. This will ensure the maximum possible number of envelopes is ready for the counting of declaration votes, which commences following polling day.
- Postal vote applications will not be produced at the preliminary scrutiny of postal votes. The requirement to check postal vote applications against postal vote certificates was removed following the 2010 federal election.
- Authorised AEC officers can perform functions relating to preliminary scrutiny on behalf of a Divisional Returning Officer, allowing this process to be completed as quickly as possible.
Divisional Senate count
- Where an initial count of Senate ballot papers has already been performed in polling places, the division will check that the total number of Senate ballot papers matches the number counted in the polling place (rather than re-counting the number recorded for each group and individual candidate). This will ensure that ballot papers are sent as quickly as possible to the Central Senate Scrutiny in each state and territory to obtain the official count figures for the Senate.