The AEC provides polling services for federal elections, by-elections and referendums. It is compulsory for all eligible Australian citizens to enrol and vote in these electoral events. The AEC supports this by:
- providing a range of voting options
- monitoring and responding to voter turnout and formality
The AEC also provides polling services for by-elections and conducts Senate special counts.
It also delivers other elections and ballots as required or authorised by legislation. These include elections for the Torres Strait Regional Authority board and registered organisations, and protected action ballots.
In 2018–19 the AEC delivered a federal election and six by-elections.
Highlights of the year
On 18 May 2019 the AEC delivered a federal election for both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The federal election was announced by the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, on 11 April 2019, and the writs were issued later that day.
In the lead-up to polling day, the AEC encouraged eligible Australians to enrol before the close of rolls at 8pm on 18 April 2019.
With a record number of eligible Australians on the roll, this was the largest election conducted in Australia, and a significant event for the AEC.
2019 federal election
Changes to legislation
In the weeks before the event, legislative changes were introduced that affected the election’s conduct. The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Modernisation and Other Measures) Act 2019 received Royal Assent on 1 March 2019 and introduced changes to the nominations process. These included:
- increasing the cost of nominating for the House of Representatives (from $1,000 to $2,000) in line with the Senate
- introducing a mandatory qualification checklist relating to eligibility under section 44 of the Constitution, that the AEC had to publish on the AEC website
The Modernisation Act also contained measures to create efficiencies and consistency in the conduct of electoral processes, such as streamlining the processes for counting and packaging ballot papers. By taking a proactive approach to potential legislative changes well in advance of the federal election, the AEC was well prepared to implement these processes.
The AEC focused considerable effort and investment towards enhancing community engagement for the 2019 federal election.
The AEC developed videos in 11 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages to support and increase electoral participation in remote communities. Available on social media, they provided information on how to enrol, how to vote and promoted temporary employment opportunities.
The AEC also partnered with:
- sporting bodies to promote youth and Indigenous enrolment and electoral awareness
- the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation to recruit and employ electoral awareness officers across three Indigenous communities
- Cherbourg Aboriginal Council, Queensland, to deliver electoral education to Indigenous youth
- Big Issue, enabling community access to electoral education and enrolment checks
Easy read guides were translated into Arabic, Chinese (simplified and traditional), French, Hindi, Spanish and Vietnamese, to further support electors from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, as well as those with disability.
Educational videos on enrolling and voting in federal elections, and assistance available for electors with disability, were provided in Auslan with voiceovers and plain English captions.
Accessible voting centres were piloted during pre-poll for those with disability.
Voting centres featured:
- greater physical accessibility, increased floor space and adjustable lighting
- two-person tables and voting screens for people who wish to be supported by a family member, friend or carer (assisted voting)
- a low sensory stimulation environment (where possible)
- digital visual communications linking deaf or hard of hearing people with Auslan interpreters
Nominations for candidates for both the Senate and the House of Representatives closed on 23 April 2019. There were 458 Senate candidates and 1,056 House of Representatives candidates. During this time, the AEC received over 16,000 pages of information from candidates. A breakdown of candidate numbers is at appendix D.
In the five days between the declaration of candidates and the start of early voting, election logistics are most complex. Between Wednesday 24 April and Sunday 28 April, the AEC formally declared candidates, designed, printed and securely delivered around 52 million ballot papers, and prepared more than 500 early-voting locations in Australia and overseas for the start of polling.
At the same time, training began across the country for the temporary election workforce. The range of voting services available to Australians—combined with Australia’s geography—make a federal election a complex and unique logistical undertaking. With millions of Australians casting their votes away from home, both interstate and overseas, the AEC must predict when and where Australians are most likely to vote. A new nationally-consistent approach to improving election event logistics, planning and execution was implemented for the first time on a national scale. Ballot papers were securely transported using over 40,000 transport routes. Transport, to move ballot papers over the Anzac Day weekend included a dedicated fleet of 737 and smaller aircraft.
The new approach improved transport and material distribution, while maintaining the integrity of the supply chain and providing greater assurance of the AEC’s ballot paper principles.
Advertisements across digital, social media, television, radio, newspapers, outdoor and cinema reminded Australians to turn up to vote and to vote formally. The national Your vote will help shape Australia public information campaign ran from the issue of the writs to election day. The official guide to the federal election was sent to all households, a practise voting tool was available on the AEC website, and information materials and advertising were translated in 30 languages and up to 18 Indigenous languages.
A national social media advertising campaign titled Stop and consider, encouraged voters to check the source of electoral communications to avoid being misled by disinformation. During the federal election, the AEC responded to an average of 214 media enquiries a week, and participated in about 25 broadcast media interviews each week.
To ensure election integrity, cyber security is critical. For the 2019 federal election, the AEC:
- engaged with partner security agencies, including the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), to mitigate cyber threats. A service provider was also engaged to enhance the AEC’s cyber monitoring capability through the Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC)
- re-established the Electoral Integrity Assurance Taskforce used for the 2018–19 by-elections. The taskforce undertook 24-hour monitoring to safeguard against cyber-attack or interference
No serious cyber security threats were detected during the 2019 federal election.
Early voting began on Monday 29 April 2019 and saw the continuing trend of a significant uptake of early voting services. Pre-poll voting accounted for nearly one third of all votes issued. The AEC planned for and managed this by critically analysing the number and location of early voting centres, and providing a range of voter services including pre‑poll, postal and mobile voting. By the end of the three week pre-poll period, over 500 pre-poll or early voting locations had been provided across Australia and more than 1.5 million postal vote packages had been issued.
To ensure all eligible Australians had equal access to participate in the electoral process, more than 550 mobile polling teams visited over 3,000 locations. This included 42 remote polling teams to service electors living in remote locations. Remote polling teams visited isolated communities, town camps and mining sites, and delivered remote polling to over 300 communities.
On polling day—Saturday 18 May 2019—the AEC provided 6,751 polling place locations across Australia servicing almost 9 million voters who cast votes for both the House of Representatives and the Senate. A temporary workforce of 90,000 people were employed for the event.
The AEC’s investment in learning and development for both AEC staff and the temporary election workforce resulted in the AEC’s most trained and professional workforce to ever deliver a federal election. The past year’s by-elections and the federal election provided quality practical involvement through the Election Experience Program (EEP). Participants worked at polling centres on polling day and at out-posted centres after polling day.
Training videos supported the AEC’s temporary election workforce to perform their roles. Over 20 videos were available to staff through QR codes and the AEC’s YouTube channel to reinforce learning and support just-in-time training. Significant improvements were made to online learning for both permanent and temporary staff.
Sixteen language-specific telephone interpreter information lines, and a multi-language line, handled almost 5,000 calls, including over 3,000 using the translator service to speak directly to AEC staff.
Computer-based modelling and data analysis of polling places was used to reduce queues, better manage ballot papers and to minimise the working hours of polling officials. Results from the voter survey show that modeling and data analysis had a positive effect, with the majority of Australians reporting a smooth voting experience and the ability to cast their vote without waiting too long.
Electronic Certified Lists
The AEC extended its use of devices to access an Electronic Certified List (ECL), allowing polling officials to efficiently search the list of eligible electors and record that an elector had been handed a ballot paper. More than 4,500 ECLs—and more than 2,700 printers—were deployed for the election. While the AEC cannot provide ECLs in every polling place due to cost, nearly three times as many were used for the 2019 federal election than in 2016.
ECLs provide many benefits over printed certified lists. They can improve the voter experience, reduce wait and queuing times, and allow ballot paper stocks to be monitored in real time. They also contribute to streamlining the preliminary scrutiny process for divisions.
Counting the votes
The vast majority of House of Representatives votes were counted on polling night, which marks a major achievement following the surge in early voting and associated complexities of counting early votes.
After 6pm in polling places, the AEC counted more than 20 million ballot papers to deliver an election night result, culminating in the most votes ever counted on election night. During the night, seats that were likely to remain close were identified to ensure counts were progressed, as much as possible, on the night.
The receipt of overseas votes back to Australia after polling day—to allow counting to progress towards official seat declarations—is a significant logistical undertaking. With more than 60,000 votes repatriated to Australia from over 80 countries—as far afield as Accra in Ghana and Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia—votes must be swiftly sorted for distribution to their home divisions for counting.
Senate scrutinies were conducted in capital cities. Counts were completed and writs were returned ahead of schedule. To do this, all used Senate ballot papers were scanned and processed at a central site in each state and territory. Over 15 million ballot papers were transported to scanning sites in 38,000 containers, where over 105 million preferences were captured and verified.
Starting with a record enrolment of 96.8 per cent of eligible Australians, 91.9 per cent of enrolled electors voted in the 2019 federal election. This compares with a turnout of 91.0 per cent at the 2016 federal election, and saw 80,000 more Australians voting in the 2019 federal election than in 2016.
Public information campaigns helped ensure that total informality remained relatively low. Overall, the informality rate has held relatively steady since the 2016 federal election. At 30 June 2019, the national informality rate of 3.81 per cent, represented a decrease of 0.13 per cent from the 2016 federal election. A breakdown of informal votes for both the Senate and the House of Representatives is at appendix D.
After polling day
Writs for all 151 House of Representatives elections, and for the Senate elections in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, were returned to the Governor-General on 21 June 2019.
The AEC now moves from ‘mobilisation and delivery’ into the ‘evaluate and learn’ phase of the electoral cycle. Through the lessons management framework, staff observations, workshops and other data are analysed. This information is used to inform AEC priorities and preparations for future electoral events.
2019 federal election data highlights
- Over 16 million Australians on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll
- More than 15 million votes were cast
- More than 7,000 polling day and pre-poll voting locations across Australia
- More than 1.5 million postal vote packages were issued
- The enrolment rate was 97 per cent1
- 1,514 candidates nominated
- Over 10 million households received The Official guide to the federal election
- More than 90,000 temporary staff were employed in almost 100,000 positions
- 80,000 more Australians voted in the 2019 federal election than in 2016
- 52 million ballot papers were printed
- Over 75,000 ballot boxes were supplied
- 15,088,616 House of Representatives and 15,184,085 Senate votes were counted
- More than 4.9 million people cast pre-poll votes
- How to vote information was provided in 29 languages
- 557 mobile polling teams visited over 3,000 locations across Australia
- 42 remote polling teams visited over 300 remote locations
- 85 overseas posts took 60,710 votes
- Over 4,500 electronic certified lists were prepared
- 91.9 per cent of electors turned out to vote
- More than 30 million visitors to the AEC website
- 24.2 million visitors went to the AEC’s virtual tally room
- The contact centre responded to:
- 379,141 phone calls
- 27,607 emails
- 3,605 social media enquiries
- 214 media enquiries and 25 broadcast media interviews were conducted each week
- 4,851 calls were managed through 16 language-specific telephone interpreters, information lines and a multi-language line
A total of 3,163 callers used the translator service to speak directly to AEC staff
For more information go to:
- the performance statement–agency direction one
- appendix D
Other highlights of the year
By-elections for the House of Representatives
In 2018–19 the AEC conducted six by-elections for the House of Representatives for the federal electoral divisions of:
- Braddon, Fremantle, Longman, Mayo and Perth on Saturday 28 July
- Wentworth on Saturday 20 October
Two of these by-elections were triggered by parliamentary resignations, and four by parliamentary resignations following judgements of the High Court of Australia.
On 24 May 2018 the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Hon Tony Smith, announced a multi by-election event to be held on Saturday 28 July 2018. The writs were issued on Friday 15 June with the close of rolls at 8pm on Friday 22 June, and the close of nominations at midday on Thursday 5 July.
Changes to the nominations process— including the use and approval of the Section 44 Qualification Checklist— allowed candidates to provide information on their eligibility to be elected to Parliament. An optional checklist was available in May 2018 and in place for all six by elections in 2018–19.
A taskforce to safeguard the five by-elections from cyber-attack or interference was established for the 28 July by-elections, and included other key agencies across government. No serious cyber threats were identified throughout this event.
The AEC applied significant resources to quickly declare the results, with the writs for Braddon, Fremantle and Mayo returned on 6 August, and Longman and Perth on Monday 13 August 2018.
The Wentworth by-election was announced on 12 September and the writ was issued on 17 September for a polling day of Saturday 20 October. The writs were returned on Monday 5 November 2018. Data from all six by-elections is in Tables 9 and 10 at appendix D.
By-elections demonstrated a clear demand for a range of voter services. Pre-poll and postal voting accounted for an average of 30 per cent of all votes issued at by-elections, continuing the trend of increased early voting.
The improved and more consistent appearance of out-posted centres with clearly defined work and secure zones, and clearly identifiable staff, reflects the AEC’s agility, resilience, skills and professionalism. This was also evident through our improved training for both permanent and temporary staff through the ERP and the Election Experience Program (EEP).
Managing our supply chain
By-elections provided an opportunity to progressively test and refine the AEC’s work with industry experts, and to establish a professional, nationally- coordinated logistics capability to improve supply chain management. This included distributing and returning election materials and equipment to and from multiple locations.
The 2016 federal election evaluation resulted in eight lessons and 13 cross-agency work priority projects focused around four key themes:
- consolidate and coordinate
- training and recruitment
- communication and information management
Lessons management framework
At 30 June 2019 all work priorities from the 2016 federal election had either been implemented or used to inform—the planning and delivery of the 2019 federal election. Individual projects and associated activities are referenced in the performance statements.
Polling place data analytics
The AEC’s work with Deakin University to develop a computer-based model of polling places was implemented at the 2018–19 by-elections. This allowed the AEC to analyse the effect of different staffing levels on various polling place sizes. Adjustments could then be made to reduce queues, better manage ballot paper stocks and improve the working hours of polling officials. This information was used to inform 2019 election planning
Information communications and technology infrastructure
A strong technology platform is vital to the AEC’s ability to quickly scale-up to deliver an election. In preparation for the 2019 federal election, the AEC implemented changes or enhancements to:
- mobile end-user services for the temporary election event network
- server, network and backup capability
- information management systems
A Mobile Office Solution allowed election staff at out-posted centres to access the AEC network during election events. This capability also supports short-term office relocations, and business continuity options for small offices.
The AEC works to consistently enhance its cyber security posture. In response to the emerging threats of cyber and foreign interference in the global electoral environment, the AEC was supported by the Electoral Integrity Assurance Taskforce. This new taskforce—a multi-agency
grouping—included security agencies and was governed by a board co-chaired by the AEC and the Department of Finance. Piloted during the by-elections on 28 July, the taskforce was used to mitigate cyber threats at the federal election. In addition, the AEC:
- undertakes regular security testing activities using external authorities and experts to assure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of AEC systems
- runs incident response workshops for internal and external service providers to support the AEC’s cyber response
- implements mitigation strategies to protect the AEC network, including the ASD Top 4 and Essential 8 to mitigate cyber intrusions
- ensures staff complete mandatory security awareness training
- continually improves the AEC’s technical and people capability to manage cyber risks
Modernisation business case
During 2017–18 the AEC commenced a business case to modernise the main election and enrolment systems as part of the AEC’s budget measures for 2019–20.
The modernisation program team is delivering and strengthening a second-pass business case to modernise core AEC processes and systems. The team includes both internal and external members and provides support across four areas:
- business user requirements
- IT system requirements
- project management
The second pass business case will be ready for submission in December 2019.
Industrial and commercial elections
The AEC conducted 906 industrial and commercial elections or ballots during the year.
Torres Strait Regional Authority elections
There were no Torres Strait Regional Authority elections held in 2018–19. Planning is underway for elections expected in 2019–20.
This year the AEC conducted:
- one federal election
- six by-elections
- 906 industrial and commercial elections and ballots
For more information go to:
- the performance statement–agency direction one
- appendix D