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From the Chair's forward

When considering electoral reforms, our priority must be: enfranchisement, not disenfranchisement. It is this philosophy that has guided this inquiry and is reflected in many of the Committee’s recommendations.

This report continues the tradition of examining and reporting on the conduct of federal elections and relevant legislation which has been carried out by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters and its predecessor, the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform.

There is a special quality about elections that are conducted by independent, impartial and professional electoral bodies like the Australian Electoral Commission, in accordance with electoral legislation that is inclusive and continues to meet the needs of the community as those needs change.

The publication of this report into the conduct of the 2010 federal election comes at a time when the proportion of Australian citizens who actively take part in electoral matters is in decline. If electoral participation is considered a key indicator of a society’s democratic health, there were trends evident in the 2010 federal election that give cause for concern. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) found that there were 3.1 million people who fell into one of the following categories: were eligible to enrol but were not on the Commonwealth electoral roll; were not marked off a certified list and presumably did not vote; and of those who did vote their vote was informal and could not be admitted to the count. This means that around 20 per cent of the population of Australia’s eligible electors did not have their say in the election of their parliamentary representatives.

The 2010 federal election was notable for a number of reasons. The High Court’s decisions in Rowe v Electoral Commissioner [2010] HCA 46 and the Federal Court’s decision in Getup Ltd v Electoral Commissioner [2010] FCA 869 regarding the use of electronic signatures impacted in varying degrees on the election and its conduct by the AEC. It was also the first winter election since 1987, which created further challenges for the AEC....


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