Preparations for an election are an ongoing function of the AEC. At the conclusion of one election the AEC reviews the conduct of that event and begins planning and preparing for the next.
Once an election is called a large number of tasks need to be completed in the five weeks leading up to and including polling day. Many of these tasks are dependent on the successful completion of key stages of the election timetable, for example, close of rolls and nominations, and all are time-critical.
The AEC is a service organisation, dedicated to helping eligible Australians fulfil their legal obligation to vote and enabling them to do so with a minimum of fuss and delay. Training of polling officials plays a significant role in this process.
At the announcement of an election DROs have responsibility for recruiting and training polling officials. This is to ensure that voting at polling places runs smoothly and the conduct of the scrutiny (the counting of votes) is carried out quickly and professionally in accordance with the legal requirements of the CEA.
The AEC has developed a comprehensive training package for polling officials which includes videos, workbooks and practical exercises. Some polling officials are also required to attend face to face presentations conducted by the DRO.
At the 1996 election:
Polling places were staffed by the following:
In the lead-up to the election and on polling day some 60 000 casual staff were employed by the AEC around Australia.
Not all voters are able to attend a polling place on polling day. To enable every eligible voter to cast a vote the AEC provides a number of alternative arrangements.
Electors unable to get to a polling place on polling day are able to cast a vote before that day at a pre-poll voting centre or by post.
For this election pre-poll voting centres were set up:
Electors who have difficulty getting to a polling place on polling day can register as a General Postal Voter (GPV). GPVs include people with a disability, silent electors, prisoners, those in remote areas, and people who have religious objections to attending a polling place on polling day. As soon as the DRO receives the ballot papers for an election, GPVs are sent postal ballot papers and certificate envelopes.
The navy patrol boat HMAS Wollongong berthed briefly at the Cocos Islands in the week leading up to the election to enable 20 sailors on board to cast a pre-poll votes
Australians living or travelling overseas are able to cast a vote at Australian embassies, consulates and high commissions or they can vote by post.
At the 1996 federal election:
An increase in the number of votes was anticipated in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, two of the largest overseas posts. As a result, an AEC officer was sent to London, Manchester and Hong Kong to assist with polling.
|Auckland||New Zealand||1 036||Moscow||Russian Federation||91|
|Bandar Seri Begawan||Darussalam||119||Nairobi||Kenya||85|
|Buenos Aires||Argentina||65||Port Moresby||Papua New Guinea||853|
|Colombo||Sri Lanka||154||Riyadh||Saudi Arabia||205|
|Dubai||United Arab Emirates||93||Sao Paulo||Brazil||0|
|Ho Chi Minh City||Vietnam||1 228||Tarawa||Kiribati||23|
|Hong Kong||Hong Kong||7 661||Tehran||Iran||18|
|Honiara||Solomon Islands||204||Tel Aviv||Israel||241|
|Kuala Lumpur||Malaysia||1 121||Warsaw||Poland||120|
|London||UK||13 926||Wellington||New Zealand||810|
|Los Angeles||USA||402||TOTAL||46 307|
Mobile polling teams bring the polling place to the elector. Mobile polling is carried out around Australia during the 12 days before polling day and on polling day.
Apart from cars, mobile polling teams used a variety of transport to bring the polling place to the elector:
At the 1996 election teams visited locations in the following divisions: the Northern Territory; Kalgoorlie in Western Australia; Grey and Wakefield in South Australia; Mallee in Victoria; Leichhardt in Queensland and Parkes in New South Wales.
In the Northern Territory:
In Western Australia:
In New South Wales:
Being stationed at one of the most remote locations in the world did not prevent electors at Australia's three permanent research bases in the Antarctic, Mawson, Casey, and Davis, and on Macquarie Island, from voting.
At this election there were 228 eligible Australian voters living in the Antarctic.
Ballot papers were faxed to Antarctica from the AEC's Hobart office. At each base an Antarctic Returning Officer (ARO) was appointed from the staff and a polling place was set up on polling day. Voting facilities were also provided to two Antarctic supply ships, Aurora Australis and Polar Bird.
After the close of polls each ARO telephoned the votes through to the AEO for Tasmania. The ARO provided details of how each elector voted. The AEO for Tasmania recorded the voting details onto normal ballot papers and despatched them to the electors' home divisions. The originals filled out by Antarctic electors were packaged up and returned to Hobart on the first available supply ship.
At this election 217 votes were recorded in the Antarctic (compared with 104 in 1993).
Voting is not compulsory for Antarctic electors because the secrecy of the vote cannot be assured due to the process used to transmit the results.
|Number of ordinary polling places||7865|
|Number of mobile teams who visited special hospitals||475|
|Number of locations visited||2124|
|Number of mobile teams who visited remote outback locations||46|
|Number of locations visited||346|
|Number of mobile teams who visited prisons||22|
|Number of locations visited||42|
|Number of pre-poll voting centres||330|
|Number of overseas polling places||99|
Since 1987 the AEC has used cardboard polling equipment (ballot boxes, voting screens etc.) manufactured from recycled materials to furnish each polling place. This amounts to almost 200 000 separate pieces of equipment consuming approximately 450 tonnes of cardboard. All equipment is recycled after polling day.
The AEC engaged a new contractor for the production of the cardboard equipment for the 1996 federal election saving $0.5m.
|Ballot boxes||(large)||18 100|
|Voting screens||(large)||120 000|
|Queue equipment||9 050|
|Litter bins||11 700|