What we did in 2019–20
The enrolment rate is down from the 97.1 per cent recorded at June 2019. Following the 2019 election, the AEC conducted a large bulk objection round—a routine activity to maintain the integrity of the roll—which resulted in a decrease in the enrolment rate to 96.3 per cent. Roll management activities, which help recover the enrolment rate— such as Federal Direct Enrolment and Update events—were significantly disrupted by bushfires and COVID-19. Despite this, the enrolment rate recovered 0.2 percentage points at 30 June 2020.
Enrolment processing targets over five and 30 days were not met. This result is distorted primarily by a large volume of enrolment transactions that were processed in July and August from declaration envelopes received at the 2019 federal election. This is not unusual following a federal election, and processing timeliness is normally restored over the following six months. From October 2019 the AEC met its five-day processing target of 95 per cent and achieved 97.5 per cent over 30 days.
The AEC supports accessible enrolment services for all eligible electors, and encourages voters to use the AEC’s online enrolment system. Online enrolments reduce paper transactions, errors and processing costs. This year the AEC introduced webforms for most special circumstances, including silent electors, overseas electors, general postal voters, Antarctic electors and prisoners. These electors can now apply for registrations or enrolments online. In 2020–21 webforms are expected to be available for all remaining special categories of enrolment.
Developmental research was undertaken following the AEC’s public information campaign at the 2019 federal election, and planned for the Eden-Monaro by-election. This research provides insights into target audiences, and informs the AEC’s public information strategy for future electoral events.
Targeted electoral education was provided to schools, teachers and school children, with service delivery impacted by bushfires and COVID-19.
The National Electoral Education Centre (NEEC) in Canberra—usually operating at full-capacity—closed on 20 March in-line with COVID-19 public health advice. More than 480 schools (34,000 students) cancelled their visits between November 2019 and March 2020. Despite this, more than 1,700 education sessions were delivered to approximately 61,000 visitors during the year, and 94 per cent of visitors were satisfied, exceeding the 90 per cent target. The number of visitors to the AEC Schools website exceeded expectations with more than 215,000 unique visits, only slightly down from 240,000 in 2018–19 (a federal election year).
Professional learning opportunities were delivered to almost 700 pre and in-service teachers at nine universities, and to 60 participants at three conferences. As face-to-face opportunities were paused due to COVID-19, teachers were also being directed online to the AEC’s professional learning tool.
Uncertainty around the easing of restrictions—and the unknown, ongoing impact on NEEC attendance—means a new baseline will be established for visitors and professional learning in 2020–21.
Our targeted community engagement approach for priority groups in the Australian community—who may face challenges in fully participating in elections—continues. Informed by evidence, this approach focuses on engagement through partnerships, an increased digital presence, and targeted activities. Our partnerships reach out to priority groups through national and regional community organisations, government agencies and other service providers to:
- deliver specific electoral education
- raise broader electoral awareness through AEC information and educational resources designed to increase enrolment, turnout and formality
- increase the number of Indigenous and linguistically diverse Australians joining the AEC’s temporary election workforce
More than 80 per cent of engagement activities are informed by analysis of enrolment data before they begin. Pilot activities leading up to and during the 2019 federal election used enrolment data and other learnings to develop targeted engagement strategies through to the next federal election. Policies, tools and plans are in place to deliver community engagement activities through AEC state offices.
COVID-19 limited some face-to-face community engagement activities in 2020, particularly with Indigenous communities. Consequently the AEC is extending its digital presence—including social media— to distribute short videos, podcasts and in-language presentations with information relevant for Indigenous Australians, people with a disability and CALD groups.
We provided information and services to our stakeholders that enable them to fulfil their legislative and regulatory obligations. This included:
- regulating the Commonwealth funding and disclosure scheme—detailed under Part 20 of the Electoral Act—to support transparency and inform the public about the financial dealings of political parties, candidates and other entities, and individuals in the electoral process
- making returns available on the AEC’s Transparency Register
- undertaking a regular program of compliance reviews that examine a sample of disclosure returns lodged with the AEC
We also conducted industrial elections and ballots under the provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 and the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009. In 2019–20 the industrial elections and ballots function was re-designed to support modern and nationally consistent election delivery. Despite COVID-19 forcing services to pause towards the end of the year resulting in fewer protected action ballots being ordered, the number of events delivered was largely consistent with the previous year.