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|Formed||21 February 1984|
|Jurisdiction||Commonwealth of Australia|
|Employees||750 (as at 20 June 2021)|
|Parent agency||Department of Finance|
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is the independent statutory authority and agency of the Australian Government responsible for the management of federal Australian elections, by-elections and referendums.
The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902 set up the framework for the Commonwealth electoral system, which was administered until 1916 as a branch of the Department of Home Affairs, by the Department of Home and Territories until 1928, back to Department of Home Affairs to 1932, and then Department of the Interior until 1972. The Australian Electoral Office was created in 1973 by the Australian Electoral Office Act 1973. The AEC was created by and operates under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
After the loss of 1,400 ballots during the recount for the 2013 Western Australia Senate election and the subsequent 2014 special election, the AEC came under significant scrutiny, leading to the resignation of Commissioner Ed Killesteyn.
The AEC is answerable to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters of the Parliament of Australia, and must report on how elections were carried out and the success of elections in general.
As specified under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the AEC consists of a chairperson (a judge or a retired judge of the Federal Court of Australia), the Electoral Commissioner, and a non-judicial member (usually the Australian Statistician). The Electoral Commissioner has the powers of a secretary of a department under the Public Service Act 1999 and Financial Management and Accountability Act 1998. The chairperson and the third, non-judicial member both hold their offices on a part-time basis.
Each House of Representatives electorate has a Divisional Returning Officer responsible for administration of elections within the division. Each state also has an Australian Electoral Officer responsible for administration of Senate elections. The AEC has a National Office in Canberra and an office in each state and territory: Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney.
The AEC's main role is to conduct federal elections, by-elections and referendums, maintain up-to-date electoral rolls, and determine electorate boundaries, apportionments and redistributions. Under a Joint Roll Arrangement with the states and territories, the AEC maintains enrolment for the whole of Australia, for rolls used in state and local government elections, other than Western Australia, The AEC publishes detailed federal election results and investigates electors who appear to fail to vote, or may have voted multiple times in an election.
The AEC is also responsible for registering political parties intending to field candidates at federal elections, monitoring the activities of those political parties, including receiving returns from parties of donations and expenditures, and the publication of the information. The AEC also plays an electoral education role, aiming to educate citizens about the electoral process by which representatives are elected, and by which the Australian Constitution is changed (referendums). It also plays a role in industrial voting and protected action ballots (e.g., votes on industrial action).
Registration of political parties
The formal registration of political parties in Australia commenced in New South Wales in 1981 and 1984 for the Commonwealth. The AEC is required to maintain a register of political parties. Such registration is required before a party can field candidates, receive public funding, have party identification on ballot papers and use above-the-line ticket voting.[better source needed]
In all jurisdictions, conditions relating to a party name require party names to have a maximum of six words, not be obscene and not to resemble the name of another, unrelated party, be likely to cause confusion with another party nor contain the word "independent" or "independent party".
All Australian jurisdictions also have a minimum membership requirement, which differs widely, especially when compared with the total number of people enrolled in the jurisdiction. These range from 100 in the ACT and Tasmania, 200 in SA, 500 in Vic and WA, 1,500 for the Commonwealth and 750 in New South Wales. Four jurisdictions require a fee for registration: $500 for the Commonwealth, Victoria and the Northern Territory; and $2,000 for New South Wales.
Public funding of political parties
Since 1984, Australian political parties have been publicly funded by the AEC. The objective of public funding is to reduce the influence of private money upon elections, and consequently, the influence of private money upon the shaping of public policy. After each election, the AEC distributes a set amount of money to each political party, per vote received. A candidate or Senate group needs 4% of the primary vote to be eligible for public funding.
After the 2013 election, political parties and candidates received $58.1 million in election funding, with the funding rate being 248.800 cents per vote. The Liberal Party received $23.9 million, as part of the Coalition total of $27.2 million, while the Labor Party received $20.8 million. Other significant recipients were Australian Greens with $5.5 million, Palmer United Party with $2.3 million, and Liberal Democratic Party with $1.0 million.
In 2016, $62.7 million was distributed, with the funding rate being 262.784 cents per vote.
One of the functions of the AEC is the maintenance of the electoral roll, which in some other countries are called electoral registers. In Australia voter registration is called "enrolment". The AEC maintains Australia's federal electoral roll, which is used for federal elections, by-elections and referendums. Australia has maintained a permanent federal electoral roll since 1908 and, by amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, enrolment has been compulsory for federal elections since 1924. The requirement to register then applied to British subjects over the age of 21.
Though each state and territory also has its own electoral commission or office, voters need to register only with the AEC, which shares the registration details with the relevant state electoral bodies. The federal roll also forms the basis of state (except in Victoria and Western Australia, which maintain their own roll) and local electoral rolls.
AEC registration covers federal, state and local election voter enrolment. In Australia and in each state or territory, it is an offence to fail to vote without valid or sufficient reason, at any federal or state election, and may be punishable by a nominal monetary penalty. The amount varies between federal and state jurisdictions. Usually, people are issued with warnings when it is found they have not voted, and are given an opportunity to show cause. Acceptable reasons for not voting may include being illness, being overseas on election day, religious belief, being incarcerated, etc. "I forgot" is not considered acceptable. Section 245 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides that if an elector has been asked the reason for failing to vote and declares a religious belief, this statement shall be regarded as conclusive with no further action being taken.
Traditionally, voters could not register after the Close of Roll for an election. In 2004, the Howard government passed legislation that prevented registration after 8 pm on the day the writs were issued. This can be up to 10 days after the election has been announced. The legislation was considered controversial by some Australians, who contended it disenfranchised first-time voters, or those who forgot to update their enrolment. The law was repealed prior to the 2010 federal election, when advocacy group GetUp! obtained a High Court ruling the changes unconstitutional. 16 and 17 year old's can provisionally enroll and able to vote when they turn 18.
List of Australian Electoral Commissioners
|Colin Hughes||21 February 1984||26 November 1989|
|Brian Field Cox||18 December 1989||20 December 1994|
|Wilfred James "Bill" Gray||16 January 1995||14 January 2000|
|Andy Becker||23 March 2000||1 July 2005|
|Ian Campbell||2 July 2005||22 September 2008|
|Ed Killesteyn||5 January 2009||4 July 2014|
|Tom Rogers||15 December 2014||Present|
Electoral commissions of each state and self-governing territory:
- Australian Capital Territory Electoral Commission
- New South Wales Electoral Commission
- Northern Territory Electoral Commission
- Electoral Commission of Queensland
- Electoral Commission of South Australia
- Tasmanian Electoral Commission
- Victorian Electoral Commission
- Western Australian Electoral Commission
- Australian Electoral Commission (28 September 2021). "Our People". Australian Government Transparency Portal. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
- "Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902 (No 19 of 1902)". Australasian Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
- Australian Electoral Office Act 1973
- Matthew Knott (30 May 2014). "AFP to investigate thousands of cases of multiple voting in 2013 election". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
- "Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters – Parliament of Australia". Aph.gov.au. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
- "Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984". Australasian Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
- "Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 – Sect 125: Register of Political Parties". classic.austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
- 6. Registration of Political Parties, ANU Press
- "Election Funding Payments: 2016 Federal Election – AustralianPolitics.com". 17 August 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
- "AEC Finalises $58 Million of Election Funding To Candidates in Federal Election". Australianpolitics.com. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
- "A short history of federal electoral reform in Australia". Australian Electoral Commission. 8 October 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2022.
- Electoral Matters Committee (22 March 2022). Inquiry into whether Victoria should participate in a national electoral roll platform (PDF) (Report). Parliament of Victoria. pp. 3–8. Retrieved 2 November 2022.
- Australian Electoral Commission. "Deadlines for enrolling to vote for federal elections". Retrieved 4 August 2010.
- Rowe v Electoral Commissioner,  HCA 46; (2010) 243 CLR 1
- "High Court upholds GetUp! case". ABC News (Australia). 6 August 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2010.
- "Enrolment – Frequently Asked Questions". Australian Electoral Commission.
- Official website
- The Electoral Council of Australia and New Zealand website, the consultative council between the AEC, New Zealand, state and territory electoral authorities