Discussion paper

Direct enrolment and direct update: the Australian experience

Democracy Elections Australia

Australia has required all eligible electors to enrol (register) to vote now for one hundred years. In recent years, however, changing demographic patterns and citizen mobility have made it increasingly challenging to maintain the accuracy and currency of the federal electoral roll. These same social trends mean that strategies such as habitation reviews which have been successful in the past are no longer effective or feasible. Two of the state electoral commissions have responded to the declining enrolment rate by implementing systems in which administrative data from other agencies are used to add individuals to the roll and update their details without their intervention (direct enrolment and direct update). Recently passed Commonwealth legislation now allows the AEC to adopt similar processes. The current paper examines the processes by which the NSW and Victorian Electoral Commissions have implemented direct update and direct enrolment through previously published information and interviews with the commissions. The paper also reports on their progress so far, including the impact on the 2010 Victorian and 2011 NSW state elections. The implications of these reforms for electoral roll management in Australia generally are discussed.

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