Planning voting services

Detailed planning is undertaken to deliver this complex operation that spans Australia’s vast geography and beyond.

Selecting polling place locations

Potential voting locations are carefully assessed prior to each federal election and this is undertaken with reference to a number of competing priorities.

Consideration is first given to the need for a particular service. This includes assessing the geography of a local area, the population, past voting trends, nearby voting services and travel trends. In particularly regional locations, the assessment of the need for a venue includes the take-up and suitability of other voting services like postal voting and remote mobile polling teams.

The AEC also assesses the size and accessibility of a venue very carefully to meet demand. This includes the required resourcing of a venue to meet the necessary number of ballot paper issuing points. The AEC reviews the availability of parking, the number and location of entrances, access for a variety of disabilities and more.

The security of a voting venue must also be assessed in detail with the AEC having a number of requirements to be met, including the availability of a room that meets the requirements to serve as a ballot paper secure zone.

Venue availability

While potential voting locations are assessed throughout the electoral cycle, the AEC only has around five weeks’ notice of the specific date/s that a venue will be required.

Once an election date is known some potential venues are likely to be unavailable for the required period, whether it be election day itself or the entire early voting period. 

Allocating polling officials

In order to provide voting services that meet demand, the allocation of polling officials to polling venues must be assessed carefully.

Population, travel and previous voting trends are again considered ahead of time. The AEC also implements a dynamic staffing model, which assesses daily voting trends at all venues and adjusts staffing where possible throughout the voting period.

In total, the AEC has around five weeks to hire and train approximately 90,000 polling officials – short term casual employees - to help deliver the federal election. This includes a variety of roles at polling venues as well as staff involved in the counting of ballot papers and the logistics to support the delivery of services.

Polling materials

In addition to resourcing a polling venue with staff, the AEC also needs to have the required variety of polling materials.

This includes the production and distribution of approximately 50 million ballot papers, 70,000 ballot boxes, 22,000 certified lists, 120,000 pencils, 160kms of string and 730,000 security seals – to name just a few key resources.

This is a significant supply chain exercise with a short lead-time and immutable deadlines that is unlike most other production and dispatch activities undertaken.

With such large volumes of material it is a delicate balancing act between appropriate readiness and the costs required to establish that state of advanced readiness at the desired time.

The voter experience

Whenever there is a system of a significant scale that allows for people to effectively choose when and where they participate there will be some element of turnout that doesn’t align to forecasting. The AEC however works hard to minimise wait times at polling venues wherever possible.

This includes the careful planning of voting services and staff as detailed above with  attention also focussed on the consistent setup of polling venues, the use of mini-queues to speed up the issuing of ballot papers  and the use of queue controllers.

Additional voting services

Careful planning also occurs for a range of targeted voting services to provide all eligible voters with access to their vote. This includes:

  • Deployed defence personnel,
  • Electors living overseas,
  • Electors living in rural and remote areas of Australia, and
  • Telephone voting services for electors who are blind or who have low vision and electors working in Antarctica (or on a ship that is in transit to or from the Antarctic).

How is Australia different?

We’re fortunate in Australia to have a system that provides a variety of voting options that enable easy access to our vote.

Voting systems in many countries around the world do not provide voters with the level of access to voting services that is afforded to Australian voters. In some jurisdictions voters have a single nominated location and time that they can vote.

Updated: 20 April 2021