Election conduct raises concerns

MAITLAND City Council’s returning officer in the September local government elections, Kevin Short, has raised concerns about the conduct of the NSW Electoral Commission during the poll.

Mr Short took the role after an offer from the council, which decided to use the services of the Australian Election Company instead of the commission.

Maitland was part of a Hunter councils’ joint regional tender for the provision of election services for the September poll.

In his report that councillors considered at last night’s meeting, Mr Short described the attitude of the commission as ‘‘unco-operative’’.

Mr Short said the commission failed to provide ‘‘soft copy’’ electoral roll data to the Australian Election Company, although candidates could obtain the documents on application.

He complained of further ‘‘unreasonable conditions’’ set by the commission on access to data, including the use of company laptops. Mr Short said the commission also failed to respond to a request for electoral enrolment forms (EFCs) to supply all the polling places.

‘‘The ECNSW [NSW Electoral Commission] advised [it] could not provide the EFCs as they had issued all their supplies to their own local government election returning officers,’’ he  said.

A spokesman for the NSW Electoral Commission said access to the roll was limited by legislation to ensure security.

The spokesman said that after consideration, the commissioner provided access to the roll to Maitland City Council officers and the election was conducted efficiently and to necessary standards.

In 2011, the state government allowed councils to run their own elections.

A staff report that accompanied Mr Short’s review said the commission visited Maitland but would not give the council a price on running the 2012 poll, other than it would be between 12.8per cent and 17per cent more than in 2008.

With the increase, the council estimated if the commission ran the poll it would cost about $350,000.

Using the Australian Election Company, instead of the commission, the staff estimated the council saved about $50,000.

One in ten votes not counted

JUST short of 10per cent of Maitland local government area voters cast intentionally informal votes at the September council elections.

The figures were in a report that was considered by Maitland councillors at last night’s  council meeting.

The review of  the voting was carried out by the council’s returning officer for the poll, Kevin Short, of the Australian Election Company.

Mr Short’s review shows that 4684 voters across the council’s four wards voted informally.

The local government area had 48,947 electors enrolled for the poll.

Votes judged as ‘‘intentionally informal’’, which included black ballots or those that contained obscenities or slogans, amounted to 2927, or about 62per cent of the total.

The other major cause of informality was incorrect completion of the ballot paper.

Independent Cr Bob Geoghegan said a lack of resources for voter education was a possible cause. He said  voter-education was better at state and federal elections.

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