Behind the Scenes: The AEC's 1998 Federal Election Report: Reviews

Updated: 4 December 2007


Following the conduct of each federal election the AEC conducts various internal reviews and external surveys of its administration of the election. The AEC also participates in any parliamentary inquiries established by the Federal Government.

For the 1998 federal election, the AEC is providing a submission to a federal parliamentary committee inquiring into electoral matters; conducted a number of internal reviews and audits on operational arrangements, and public information activities; and undertook post-election surveys among electors and polling staff. A number of election procedures were used for the first time at this election so the results will be important in planning for the conduct of further elections and referendums.

Federal Parliamentary Inquiry

When a new parliament meets it establishes parliamentary committees to investigate various matters. The 39th parliament established the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, to scrutinise electoral issues. Its first inquiry is into the conduct of the 1998 federal election and related matters thereto.

The AEC makes a substantial submission to this inquiry. This submission will assess the conduct of the 1998 election, discuss issues raised during the election period, and make various recommendations for amendments to the Act and electoral procedures to ensure the efficient and effective administration of electoral matters.

Operational Reviews

The AEC undertook a number of internal reviews to evaluate its performance on various operational processes and arrangements of the 1998 federal election. These reviews were conducted on a State and Territory basis and also on a national basis.

The findings of these reviews will be used in the planning of policies, procedures and services for the conduct of future elections and events.

Public Information Campaign Reviews

Advertising research

The AEC undertook concept testing of the youth television commercial to ensure its effectiveness in communicating with the specific target audience. The research also explored reasons why young people are under-represented in electoral participation.

Tracking research was conducted to measure the awareness and impact of the AEC's national advertising campaign on the voting public. A national telephone survey was undertaken after each phase of the advertising campaign (enrolment, voting services and formality).

The research showed that all three phases of the AEC advertising campaign succeeded in reaching the majority of Australian voters. Amongst other findings, the research indicated that among those surveyed:

  • 4 in 5 voters recalled seeing advertising about enrolment including 3 in 4 voters aged under 25 years
  • 3 in 5 voters recalled seeing advertising about pre-poll and postal voting
  • 4 in 5 voters recalled seeing advertising about the correct way to fill in ballot papers

Recall of specific television advertisements was also high with 54 percent of those surveyed seeing the enrolment advertisement featuring a couple moving house and 62 percent seeing the House of Representatives formal voting television advertisement.

National Telephone Enquiry Service and Telephone Interpreting Service review

An internal review of the operation of the national enquiry service and interpreting service commenced in late 1998. A working party was set up to evaluate the performance of the two telephone services and to provide recommendations to improve its service delivery, procedures and training.

Internet review

In the 1998 election, the Internet played a much greater role in providing information to stakeholders than at previous elections. An internal review is being undertaken to provide input into the continual enhancement of the AEC's website and its role during specific electoral events.

Post-Election Elector Survey

The post-election elector survey was conducted in conjunction with the formal advertising tracking research. A sample of 1 200 eligible electors were phoned on 4–5 October 1998 and asked questions about their satisfaction with the election process and AEC services.

The survey results found that:

  • the attitude of voters towards polling officials was highly positive with 93 percent agreeing they were efficient and honest
  • 88 percent of people had no problems at a polling place, nine percent experienced minor problems and only two percent stated they had major problems
  • 93 percent of people felt they were either very well or quite well informed about the correct way to fill in a ballot paper.

Review of the Training of Polling Staff Program

A review of the Training of Polling Staff (TOPS) program was undertaken to gauge the effectiveness of the program among those who participated in it in 1998. A questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 6 000 polling officials and AEC divisional staff who were involved in the training. Their responses and suggestions will be used to refine the training program for future electoral events.

Internal Audit

The Internal Audit section of the AEC provides an independent assessment of operational performance on AEC programs and procedures. For the 1998 federal election, five post-election audit reviews were undertaken in several areas.

Declaration vote scrutiny

A review was undertaken to assess the reliability of processes for the issue and scrutiny of declaration votes and to report on the effectiveness of current arrangements.

Ballot paper management

An audit was conducted to assess the reliability and accuracy of ballot paper accounting and reporting, and to provide recommendations to improve performance.

Resource management

An audit review to identify workload information and to make recommendations for resource usage for future electoral events was undertaken.

AECPAY expenditure

An audit was conducted to assess the effectiveness of the payment system for election casuals and polling officials and to provide recommendations for its future use.

Computerised Senate Scrutiny System

A review was undertaken to assess the controls and procedures operating over the central Senate Scrutiny System in each State and Territory.