Electoral Integrity Framework

Updated: 9 July 2015

Purpose of the document

This document outlines the Electoral Integrity Framework used by the AEC. The Electoral Integrity Framework (the framework) outlines the key integrity principles that should underpin all AEC work in elections and enrolment in order to maintain high levels of electoral integrity.

The integrity of, and confidence in, Australia's electoral democracy is dependent on an electoral system which consistently operates with a high level of integrity. Integrity means consistently adhering to the provisions contained in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act), following AEC policies and procedures, and administering an electoral system where eligible electors cast votes which are counted accurately and promptly.

The framework is focused on AEC processes and procedures and does not comment on the underlying integrity of the legislated systems of enrolment and elections in Australia's electoral system. The framework currently applies to enrolment and elections, and may, in time, apply to other areas of the AEC's work, such as funding and disclosure or industrial and commercial elections.

Relationship to the AEC's values

The Electoral Integrity Framework is a strategic approach to achieving operational electoral integrity under the AEC's values of electoral integrity through professionalism, quality and agility. It is a way for AEC staff working on elections and enrolment to ensure every task is consistent with electoral integrity, as every task matters.

The approach taken by the framework is to ensure clear principles of electoral integrity through professionalism, quality and agility, which will enable the AEC to re-establish its reputation for electoral integrity.

The framework explicitly acknowledges that the AEC must not only be capable and operate with quality and agility. It must be seen to be operating with high integrity, and by measuring indicators of electoral integrity, it will be able to demonstrate continuous improvement to all stakeholders. The substance of electoral integrity is critical, but perception is also important, and the AEC's diverse stakeholders will need reassurance that the agency is focused on this critical issue.

Audience

The Electoral Integrity Framework is intended for:

  • all AEC staff, as they are charged with maintaining and enhancing the integrity of Australia's electoral system through their day-to-day work, and
  • AEC stakeholders, including Members of Parliament, candidates, and electors, for whom confidence in the AEC and its policies and processes underlies confidence in Australia's electoral democracy and the legitimacy of its government.

Components of the framework

The Electoral Integrity Framework has three components.

  1. Four elements of electoral integrity (accuracy, completeness, entitlement and capability).
  2. Principles that give effect to each of the four elements in two of the AEC's business outcomes – enrolment and elections.
  3. Indicators that serve as a way of measuring how well the AEC meets each of the principles.

The framework currently covers the AEC's work in enrolment and elections (Figure 1)

flowchart showing the elements of integrity and their relationship to enrolment and elections
Figure 1: Components of the Electoral Integrity Framework

Elements of electoral integrity

The four elements of electoral integrity are as follows:

  1. Accuracy – all of the elements of the franchise will correctly reflect the characteristics and intentions of the electors.
  2. Completeness – the franchise will be delivered to every eligible Australian.
  3. Entitlement – the franchise will not be delivered to those not eligible to participate.
  4. Capability – the expectation that the AEC will do a competent job, consistent with the requirements of the relevant legislation and the Australian Public Service values. This is reflected in outputs that result from a focus on electoral integrity through operational compliance and the AEC's values of quality, agility and professionalism. Capability is made up of three sub-elements:
    1. security (of elector information, AEC data, and physical assets such as ballot papers);
    2. reliability (procedural correctness and compliance with policies and the Electoral Act); and
    3. transparency (to candidates and voters, or data and processes, including availability of procedural justice).

The elements of electoral integrity are based explicitly on five elements of roll integrity that have previously been used internally to understand the state of the electoral Roll. These five elements were themselves based on the four elements of integrity used by the Australian National Audit Office (completeness, accuracy, validity and security) in its assessment of the integrity of the electoral roll (Table 1).1

Table 1: Variations on integrity elements over time.
ANAO Elements of roll integrity Electoral Integrity Framework
Accuracy Accuracy Accuracy
Completeness Completeness Completeness
Validity Entitlement Entitlement
Security Processing correctness Capability (Reliability)
  Security Capability (Security)
    Capability (Transparency)

The elements apply across the AEC's business areas of enrolment and elections (Figure 2). They are reflected in the principles that underpin the AEC's work in enrolment and elections, and the indicators by which the AEC measures its performance. The principles and indicators that relate to each of the elements are presented in Table 2.

The "capability" element combines the "processing correctness" and "security" elements of electoral roll integrity to better reflect a general orientation towards 'every task matters' and operational compliance. These elements should be part of a minimum level of capability through which the AEC undertakes its work.

Principles

The principles operationalise the elements in the business areas of enrolment and elections. The principles explain how each of the elements applies to enrolment and elections, what the elements mean in these specific contexts, and represent what the AEC aspires to in terms of electoral integrity in each of these areas.

The list of principles should be viewed as evolving to meet the identified needs of the agency, rather than fixed in this document. The principles themselves do not define specific targets to be achieved, as there is no point at which the AEC should consider its integrity work complete and stop striving for integrity. However, the indicators, as discussed below, are measurements of how well the AEC is meeting its integrity aim, and may be associated with particular thresholds.

Indicators

The indicators are measures of the AEC's success against each of the principles. The indicators reflect the fact that, to improve its performance in relation to electoral integrity, the AEC must be able to measure that performance.

Specific targets for indicators are outside the scope of this document. Reporting and reassessment schedules for indicators will be determined by the relevant business areas.

The lack of an indicator to measure a principle may reflect an unmonitored risk to the agency, and provides information on where AEC data collection processes could be improved. Proposed indicators for each principle are listed in Table 2, based on the data that might reasonably be measured. Indicators which also constitute agency KPIs are marked with an asterisk.

Where an indicator is not currently being actively measured, an opportunity exists to either re-examine data that is available to the AEC to determine whether it can be measured, or to consider additional data generating processes. Some principles may be difficult to measure directly, or may have multiple different indicators which address different aspects of the principle, reflecting the complexity of running an electoral system with high integrity.

diagram of how the elements of integrity will help us to achieve electoral integrity
Figure 2: Electoral Integrity Framework

Table 2: Electoral integrity indicators
Business Area Element Principle Indicators
Enrolment Accuracy Enrolled at the correct address
Roll updated in a timely manner
Enrolment accuracy (Sample Audit Fieldwork)
ABS population movements to Roll update rates
Completeness All eligible electors enrolled Enrolment rate*
Entitlement Only eligible people enrolled Entitlement objections
Evidence of identity and citizenship checks passed
Security Data is kept secure Incidents of breaches
Silent elector security
Appropriate policies in place
Reliability Correct processing Enrolment Quality Assurance Program
Transparency Roll available for inspection Compliance with the Act
Roll access complaints
eRoll usage statistics
Decision reviews upheld
Elections Completeness All enrolled electors vote Turnout rate*
Accuracy Votes reflect voter intention Informality rate*
IBPS results
Entitlement Only enrolled people vote
Only one vote counted per voter
Unaccounted for multiple marks
Multi-voter AFP referrals
Security Every vote is secret
All ballot papers remain live and secure
Number of confirmed security incidents
Ballot paper reconciliation records
Reliability Votes counted correctly Outcomes of recounts
Counting errors identified
Stakeholder perceptions of count reliability
Transparency All election processes open for scrutiny
Integrity issues publically reported
Number/impact of integrity issues reported
*Internal KPIs

Function of the framework

In addition to giving the AEC a language to discuss how the AEC understands and manages electoral integrity in elections and enrolment, the framework serves two main functions:

  • informing program and operational policy development and assessment, and
  • enabling systematic and consistent measurement of electoral integrity.

Development and assessment of operational policy

Many of the policies and procedures used by the AEC have some potential impact on electoral integrity. The elements and principles of the framework provide a structure for analysing the specific electoral integrity implications in a systematic way for both the development of new policies and procedures and the analysis of existing ones.

In many cases the policy or procedure will have some impact on more than one of the principles, and not necessarily in the same direction. An enrolment policy that applies stricter eligibility testing on new enrolments may be beneficial from the perspective of the "enrolled at the correct address" principle, but may affect the "roll updated in a timely manner" principle.

This form of integrity analysis will allow the AEC to make an informed judgement of policy and procedure in relation to electoral integrity.

Measurement of electoral integrity

Without consistent and ongoing measurement of the different aspects of electoral integrity the AEC has no way of knowing whether a commitment to integrity translates into an actual improvement in electoral integrity. Measurement of electoral integrity and publication of performance against the electoral integrity indicators allows the AEC to be held accountable to its stakeholders.

Some areas of electoral integrity are inherently difficult to measure and potentially ambiguous. For example, more identified cases of enrolment fraud could be because there are actually more of them, or because the AEC is getting better at detecting them. However, this should be taken as an impetus to improve data collection and measurement.

Electoral integrity principles that are not being actively measured present a high risk to the AEC and should inform data collection and evaluation strategies to address any gaps. A potential consequence of not having appropriate indicators is that electoral integrity violations may come to the attention of the public or media before they come to the attention of the AEC, leading to considerable reputational damage.

Agency integration

The Electoral Integrity Framework is designed to sit alongside the AEC's new values, and existing fraud control, risk management and assurance processes.

The AEC's values inform all AEC work, including the framework. The framework is one of the ways in which the AEC will achieve and demonstrate professionalism, quality and agility and track its continuous improvement in relation to electoral integrity.

The Fraud Control Plan remains the mechanism for dealing with referred allegations of fraud and internally identified cases of electoral fraud which occurs through the violation of electoral legislation, and therefore the electoral integrity principles. Other non-criminal violations should be addressed through existing processes where possible, such as enrolment objections or non-voter processing.

Electoral integrity issues and their implications should be reflected in the appropriate risk management and strategic plans. The Electoral Integrity Framework should be used as a way of examining the potential electoral integrity issues that might impact business areas and inform the risk mitigation plans. Potential electoral integrity issues provide clear indication to the agency where additional data collection is needed in order to adequately monitor its performance against these principles.


  1. Australian National Audit Office (2002). Integrity of the Electoral Roll: Australian Electoral Commission. Audit Report No. 42, 2001–2002.