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

Updated: 4 December 2007


Who could vote?

an elector

A person was eligible to vote in the 1998 federal election if their name was on the Commonwealth electoral roll at the close of rolls for the election at 8pm, Monday 7 September 1998.

The electoral roll is a list of all people who are registered to vote at Australian elections. Australian citizens over 18 years of age (with a few exceptions) must enrol to vote, and voting is compulsory in federal elections and referendums for enrolled electors.

Seventeen year olds may provisionally enrol and can vote if their 18th birthday falls on or before polling day for the election. The only non-Australian citizens who are eligible to vote are British subjects who were on the Commonwealth electoral roll immediately before 26 January 1984, at which time the eligibility requirements were altered.

The following people are not entitled to enrol and vote:

  • people who are incapable of understanding the nature and significance of enrolment and voting
  • prisoners serving a sentence of five years or more
  • people who have been convicted of treason and not pardoned.

Enrolment forms are available at all post offices and agencies, AEC offices or can be downloaded from the AEC Internet website. The forms may be returned to the AEC by post, fax or in person.

Overseas enrolment

Changes to enrolment from outside Australia were introduced just prior to the 1998 federal election. For the first time, Australian citizens who were overseas and not enrolled, but would have been eligible if they were in Australia, and who:

  • had left Australia less than two years ago;
  • were outside Australia for career or employment purposes or that of their spouse;
  • were going to be overseas for up to six years; and
  • intended to return to Australia permanently

were able to enrol on a special enrolment form called 'Enrolment from outside Australia'. These forms were available from Australian embassies and consulates and on the AEC Internet website. Previously enrolment from outside Australia was not possible.

Northern Territory Statehood Referendum

Voting in the Northern Territory Statehood referendum was compulsory for all eligible electors. A person was eligible to vote in the referendum if they were enrolled for the Division of the Northern Territory and had an address in the Northern Territory. Electors enrolled in the Division of the Northern Territory but who were resident on Cocos (Keeling) and Christmas Islands were not eligible to vote in the referendum. A total of 103 723 voters were eligible to vote in the referendum.

Close of rolls

When an election is announced, there are seven days from the issue of the writs for people to ensure that they are correctly enrolled before the electoral roll is closed.

During the 1998 federal election, a large number of Australians used the close of rolls week to either enrol for the first time or to check their enrolment details and if necessary to update these details. The AEC answered over 167 459 enquiries through the national telephone enquiry service and processed over 64 000 enrolment forms during this week.

There were 12 056 625 people enrolled to vote at the close of rolls for the 1998 federal election at 8pm on Monday 7 September 1998. This figure included 8 958 provisionally enrolled electors who would turn 18 between the close of rolls and polling day.

Enrolment statistics for each State and Territory are detailed in the table below.

Close of rolls figures by State/Territory
State/Territory As at 8pm, 7 September 1998
NSW 4 031 749
VIC 3 056 887
QLD 2 177 556
WA 1 140 845
SA 1 006 398
TAS 329 751
ACT 208 684
NT 104 755
TOTAL 12 056 625*
* Close of rolls figures were calculated following the processing of all enrolment forms received by 8pm on Monday 7 September 1998 and appear only on this page and page 11. All other enrolment figures in this publication are close of rolls figures which have been adjusted since polling day to give the exact number of electors entitled to vote at the election. The adjustments include the removal of the names of electors who died after the close of rolls and the reinstatement of eligible electors previously removed from the roll.

Comparative close of rolls enrolment figures for federal elections conducted since 1984 are presented below.

Special enrolment

Some people qualify for special enrolment which provides them with services to meet their particular needs. These are:

  • people with a physical disability or illness are able to have someone help them enrol and vote if necessary, and can apply to become general postal voters
  • people with no fixed address may enrol as itinerant electors
  • 17 year olds can provisionally enrol
  • people working in Antarctica can register as Antarctic electors
  • enrolment by eligible Australian citizens resident on Norfolk Island is voluntary, but once enrolled voting is compulsory
  • people can apply for silent enrolment if they believe that the publication of their address on the roll would put their own, or their family's safety at risk
  • people going overseas can register as eligible overseas electors
At 7 September 1998 the following number of electors had special enrolment:
State/Territory Provisional Itinerant Overseas Silent Antarctic
NSW 13 266 577 1 373 5 436 36
VIC 9 804 548 1 359 4 158 25
QLD 2 025 699 640 3 654 34
WA 4 742 278 214 2 875 15
SA 4 245 248 78 2 375 14
TAS 335 79 68 303 53
ACT 284 52 1 200 699 13
NT 227 51 137 134 7
TOTAL 34 928 2 532 5 069 19 634 197

The electoral roll

After the close of rolls, extracts of data from the computerised roll management system were used to produce Certified Lists of electors, reference rolls and microfiche.

Certified Lists

The Certified List was the official electoral roll used on polling day to mark off electors' names. The list was certified by the Electoral Commissioner as accurate. Each polling place was supplied with a copy of the certified list of electors for the Division it was located in. The list contained the name and address of all electors with two black arrow head markings (clockmarks) about a centimetre apart beside the name of each elector. At a polling place the polling official drew a line between the arrow heads indicating when the elector had been given their ballot papers.

After the election the Certified Lists were electronically scanned to identify apparent non-voters and possible multiple voters.

For the 1998 election:

  • over 30 000 Certified Lists were printed, with the 148 electoral divisions receiving on average 203 Certified Lists, each comprising approximately 408 pages
  • preparations for the printing of the lists commenced in June and laser printing contractors were engaged in each State and the Australian Capital Territory at 13 separate secure sites
  • the lists were printed on high-speed laser printers
  • over five million A4 sheets of paper were used for printing the lists, this was a total of 37.284 tonnes
  • printing of the Certified Lists took ten days to complete

Reference Rolls

Reference rolls were also produced following the close of rolls. They contained the same information as Certified Lists (without the clockmarks) and were produced specifically as reference material.

Under the Act, all House of Representatives candidates were provided with a copy of the list of electors for the division for which they were standing as soon as possible after the close of rolls. Following the results of the election, copies of lists were then supplied to all successful candidates in the House of Representatives and Senate elections. Reference rolls were also available for public inspection at the relevant Divisional Office.

For this election:

  • 8 880 reference rolls were printed in total
  • this was an average of 60 rolls per division
  • reference rolls were printed in seven sites in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory
  • 1 811 520 million sheets of paper were used in the printing.

The roll was also produced on microfiche and made available for public inspection at all AEC offices.