On a roll

If you’re a Crikey subscriber or are willing to take out a two-week trial, you can read my piece from yesterday on enrolment numbers. If not, Simon Jackman’s analysis at The Bullring is at least as good. More reading on this subject from Jackman and Brent and Antony Green. And remember: new enrolments must be lodged by no later than 8pm this evening.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

145 comments on “On a roll”

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  1. I suspect the coalition is going to cop it no matter what happens.

    If numbers are down, the coalitions change to closing of rolls will be blamed.
    If numbers are expected those from the left will be saying the sneeky trick hadn’t worked.

    I think that enrolment is like homework, you leave it to the last minute but most people get it in on time.

  2. I imagine enrolling people at polling places would be extremely expensive.

    How many AEC employees would be needed to cover each polling booth in every electorate all day? How do they confirm your enrolment within 5 minutes?

    Surely it would be cheaper to follow people up, as discussed by Antony in the above-mentioned article, than try to enrol them on Election Day.

  3. i must say, whenever i’ve moved house, the AEC has been very quick to send me a new form to fill in. i’ve often wondered how they knew i’d moved, but now i know…

  4. I think the main reason enrollment is carried out prior to polling is to ensure the integrity of the rolls: to prevent fraudulent enrolments, multiple voting, attempts to disrupt or rig the outcome of polls…taking all the fun out of things in general…

  5. The obvious solution to this and many other problems is a national ID card. Why anyone opposes this I cannot understand. Labor fought and won an election on it in 1987, but now have got cold feet, which is a pity.

  6. I’m starting to think you are a crypto-stalinist, Adam…:) I suspect there are more liberty-friendly ways of keeping an electoral roll up to scratch.

  7. In other countries such as New Zealand and Canada, you can rock up and vote without being on the roll. But you must fill in a declaration vote and provide all the required documentation which will be checked after polling day and before your ballot is removed from the declaration envelope and counted.

    I’ve always argued the new points scheme used to get on the roll should be administered in this way. If your application fell short in some way, you could be provisionally enroled, but you must bring the required documentation to have your enrolment confirmed on polling day. There are people this week who will not be able to get on the roll because they rock-up at AEC offices without the correct documentation. Any of these people could be provisionally enroled without putting polling day at risk.

  8. I’d love a unique number. The local library could use it and I give them the details I want to, the local soccer club could use it.

    Thos people who don’t want to give it get a different number issued by the library but it would save me heeps of time if I could just use a single memorised number whenever someone wanted to look me up.

    I’d also get my basic details on a swipe card, save filling in name address phone etc on every form I ever see.

  9. In itself, it’s not. But the ability to link all kinds of data with identity creates both the means and the opportunity to abuse individual privacy – a threat to civil liberties. I am not confident that government agencies – maybe of an authoritarian persuasion – could resist using individual information with out much regard for individual privacy. The state already has extensive powers of arrest and detention. A matching data-collection capacity would be scary.

  10. I think Antony’s procedure for provisional enrolment is a good idea – eligible persons should not be denied the vote simply for clerical reasons.

  11. Adam, call me old-fashioned, but if there is a zealot or an ideologue or a minister called Kevin Andrews out there with the chance to abuse their powers, they will…..

  12. Not at all. I recognise the realities of a highly complex urban society in which a significant number of people want to do anti-social things like cheat the social security system, steal other people’s identities, defraud other people and plan terrorist acts. An ID card makes all those things harder, while making many other things, like opening a bank account, much easier for citizens. Those were the arguments that Labor successfully used at the 1987 election for the Australia Card, which we would have had for 20 years by now and would totally take for granted if the Libs hadn’t opposed it in the Senate out of pure obstructionism. Many other democracies have ID cards and have not experienced “stalinism” as a result.

  13. I’m fairly ambivalent on the subject, but I think your first answer clearly indicates the infringement to liberty. It’s whether that infringement to liberty is a worthwhile tradeoff. I probably lean your way on it Adam, but are far from convinced.

  14. Adam, the practical things you mention make good sense. But what do you do about over-vigilant or corrupt officials? (I think of the Special Branches of state police forces). What do you do about cynical and self-satisfied Attorneys-General? I am not full of confidence in the willingness of legislatures to protect citizens against a coercive or arbitrary Executive.

  15. Civics 101: In a democracy, bad laws can be changed by democractic means. You can’t oppose things on the grounds that they might be abused. Any law can be abused. You could oppose Australia having an army on the grounds that they might stage a coup. The trick is to have appropriate safegaurds. I favour an ID card plus a bill of rights to prevent its abuse, plus an independent judiciary, plus an ombudsman etc etc. These things are not beyond the ingenuity of civilised societies to solve.

    Four EU countries have compulsory ID card schemes (Germany, Belgium, Greece, and Spain). Spanish authorities plan to replace their existing identity cards with electronic versions. Eight EU countries have voluntary ID card schemes (Austria, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal & Sweden) and three (UK, Denmark, Ireland) do not have a card, though Denmark has a national ID number scheme. Some countries with voluntary card schemes (Sweden and Italy) make it compulsory to register on a ‘population database’.

    Are these countries any less liberal or democratic than Australia?

  16. I understand the concern about the Australia Card. I would not like the Liberal Party to be in charge of a system that enforces its use. Can you imagine what laws the Exclusive Brethren would enforce on us?

  17. Some more, some less – hard to answer a question about FIFTEEN countries on the matter in any reasonable space here.

    Your point is well made, however, and I am aware of that side of the argument – I just don’t hear freedom talked about much anymore and think it needs to be more fully considered in any debate.

    Indeed, whenever it is raised, the response usually insinuates criminality on the part of the raiser and I find that an unsubtle argument. As I stated, I probably lean your way on this matter, Adam, but the devil is in the detail.

  18. Well, you might not oppose things on the ground that they might be abused, but you can withhold consent until you’re sure abuse can be prevented. I am not confident – call me a worrier. But officials will abuse their powers unless they are checked. It is inevitable. (Think of the Rau and Solon cases and the Haneef case and the generally aggressive way immigration law is administered.) Like I say, call me old-fashioned…

  19. Well now, good argument there. The Rau case was entirely about mistaken identity. If she’d had an ID card, the problem wouldn’t have arisen. An ID card actually protects the citizen against misuse of authority or mistaken use of it. “No officer, I am not Tony Mokbel, and here’s my ID card to prove it.”

  20. Yes. It was about identity. But whether she was or was not obliged to carry ID, she had none. Her fate would have been the same: she would have been detained without reason or charge or inquiry.

  21. Since the death of socialism, which was the left’s positive agenda for a century, the term “left” just means “resistant to change” and “in the grip of nostalgia.” You’re well off out of it.

  22. That’s what I am mean: the arbitrary use of state power occurs. Give the state more unchecked power and it will occur more frequently…

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