VEC Selections

 

VEC’s activities in the last 12 months
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VEC Selections

Message from the Electoral Commissioner

The requirement to prepare end of financial year reports has provided the opportunity to reflect on VEC activities and successes over the previous 12 months. Last October, Local Government elections across 78 councils dominated the VEC’s  work - with 2,135 candidates contesting 636 vacancies in 222 separate elections.

This complex multifaceted program of activity required thorough planning and very close liaison with councils, and while the demands of the program were many, all elections were declared by the target date of 4 November 2016.

As to the administration of the State’s enrolment process, not surprisingly, elector numbers continue to grow - the State Register now contains the details of nearly four million electors. With the Register growing an average of 2% per year, it is anticipated that around 4.1 million electors will vote in the next State election in November 2018.

Planning for the State election has already commenced. Noting the growth in elector numbers and their change in behaviour around early voting (big increases), VEC processes are being adjusted and staff levels examined. A draft service plan for the election will be completed before the end of the year and stakeholders engaged for their feedback.

The process to identify election managers has begun and their training requirements established. Robust project planning and preparation remains the key to a compliant and transparent State election in which the public can have full confidence.

I hope you enjoy this selection of articles about the VEC’s activities over the last 12 months.

Yours sincerely,


Warwick Gately AM
Electoral Commissioner

 

2016 Local Government elections overview

Local Government elections were held across Victoria in October 2016 with over 4.4 million voters on the roll across 78 councils. Just over 3.8 million ballot packs were sent out over three days, and 2,135 candidates contested 636 vacancies in 222 separate elections.
Voter turnout for those entitled to vote was 72.15%. The average statewide turnout for postal elections was 73.75%, and 61.49% for attendance elections.
Computer counts were conducted on behalf of 49 councils for a total of 154 contested elections. Manual counts took place for single councillor wards and occurred in 68 contested wards. There was one full recount conducted for the Wyndham City Council, Harrison Ward election, which was initiated by the VEC.

The informal rate for the 2016 general elections was 6.29%, which is an increase from the informality rate seen in 2012 which was 5.39%. An analysis of informal votes across seven elections indicated that, on average, 1 in 3 informal votes were apparently deliberate.

There were a total of 515 complaints processed and responded to throughout the election period. The VEC committed to responding to each complainant within five working days. The VEC’s average response time for complaints was three working days.

Local Government Elections Report
The 2016 Local Government Elections Report was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday 20 June 2017 and is available to view through the VEC website.

The report gives a detailed overview of:

  • how the VEC delivered election services
  • performance against targets
  • feedback from survey respondents and
  • recommendations for the future.
The Electoral Commissioner Warwick Gately, says of the report:
'It provides detail on the many activities that made up the Local Government election program. Importantly, areas where process and operational improvements can be made are identified, and recommendations are made for the Government’s consideration'.
 
Re-registration of registered political parties
Every four years, halfway between State elections, registered political parties have to apply to the VEC for re-registration. This is to ensure that all registered parties are still entitled to the benefits of registration, which include having the party’s name printed on ballot papers next to its endorsed candidates’ names, provision of public funding and enrolment information.

After receiving an application, the VEC tests whether a party has at least 500 eligible members by writing to those on the list provided by the party, asking them to return a signed form about their membership in a reply-paid envelope.

Sixteen of Victoria’s 17 registered parties applied for re-registration by the deadline of 24 October 2016, while one party opted to wait for six months, as allowed by the Act. The VEC wrote to a total of 18,029 people to test the parties’ membership. 

Re-registration was completed by 20 June 2017. Fourteen parties demonstrated that they had enough eligible members and were re-registered.

Three parties were not re-registered. The VEC de-registered People Power Victoria – No Smart Meters because it ceased to exist. The Australian Cyclists Party and the Rise Up Australia Party were also deregistered because they failed to show they had at least 500 eligible members.

 

VEC submissions to Electoral Matters Committee

The Electoral Matters Committee (EMC) is a Joint Investigatory Committee of Parliament tasked with holding inquiries and reporting on the conduct of parliamentary and Local Government elections and other electoral matters.

This year the VEC made two submissions to the EMC.

A key recommendation was made to the Inquiry into Electronic Voting. The VEC recommended 'the Electoral Act 2002 be amended so that a limited category of electors (blind or with low vision, motor impaired, insufficient language or literacy skills, interstate and overseas) be allowed access to a remote voting system where their vote could be cast and transferred electronically, subject to regulatory protocols established by the Electoral Commission'.

In its response, the EMC supported the VEC's recommendation in principle, provided it satisfied a few of its recommendations which you can read here .The Government is yet to respond.  

The other submission made was to the Inquiry into Civics and Electoral Participation in Victorian State Parliamentary Elections.

For this inquiry, the Terms of Reference received from the Legislative Assembly asked that the EMC examine and compare the VEC's community engagement programs with other Australian electoral commissions and the UK and New Zealand, to ensure that Victorian citizens are adequately informed and able to participate effectively in elections.

The EMC has also been asked to examine strategies to reduce informal voting at Victorian state elections not related to the voting system, and how the VEC employs and trains casual staff for Victorian state elections in light of changing technological and societal demands.

In addition, the EMC will examine strategies to increase electoral participation amongst community groups that traditionally experience barriers to electoral participation. These include Victorians aged 18 to 24, Victorians from multicultural backgrounds, as well as Victorians who have recently become Australian citizens and are not familiar with Australia’s electoral system.

You can view the VEC's submission online.

The reporting date for this inquiry is no later than 31 August 2018. Once the report is tabled in Parliament, an electronic copy will be available for download on the Victorian parliament website.

The Government is required to respond to the report within six months of the final report being tabled.

 

VEC online interactive map

The VEC recently launched an online interactive map using Google’s mapping technology.

Designed as a one-stop-shop for common questions, the map provides critical election information such as details about electorates and boundaries.

If you're looking for an address, the search results will include State and local government electorates, including information about the region (upper house), district (lower house), local council and, if applicable, council ward, relevant to that address.

Voters will be able to use the map during an election to access information about early and on-the-day voting, accessibility, as well as directions for driving, walking and cycling.

The interactive map is compatible with most devices and can be found here or through our website

 

Voters Voice app wins two awards


To help support the VEC’s vision that all Victorians actively participate in their democracy, Voters Voice, a free iPad app, was released in 2016, in time for the October Local Government elections.

Since its launch last year, Voters Voice has already won two awards - the Best App Award at the 2017 Australian Good Design® Awards and a Silver Award at the 2017 Tech Design Awards.

The award winning app provides information in Easy English, plain English, Auslan and video formats. There is also a short video to help people understand what they need to know before, during, and after voting at an attendance election.

Scope, a leading Victorian disability agency, advises there are many people who will benefit from the app, including people with communication difficulties due to a developmental disability, such as an intellectual impairment or an acquired brain injury.

The app also caters for people with English language or literacy difficulties and those who speak Auslan.

The VEC is pleased to report that an enhanced version of Voters Voice, including availability on other platforms, will be rolled out for the 2018 State election.

 

Reconciliation Action Plan update

The VEC officially launched its Reconciliation Action Plan 2017–19 on 22 February 2017.

Committed to embracing reconciliation across Victoria’s electoral system, the VEC’s vision for reconciliation is the full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a truly inclusive electoral system.

Through education and personal development opportunities, VEC staff will be equipped with the knowledge and compassion to provide culturally safe and appropriate electoral services.

By developing organisational capacity to support and build meaningful relationships with the First Peoples of this land, the VEC will facilitate trust and understanding in voting and elections.

VEC progress so far in line with the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP):

  • officially launched the RAP
  • developed terms of reference for the VEC RAP Committee
  • support of KGI REAL Program (a program specifically designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 14 – 21 years to develop their leadership skills)
  • participated in National Reconciliation Week activities
  • participated in NAIDOC week activities and
  • attended the Aboriginal employment expo.
Coming up:
  • development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural protocol document for Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country
  • cultural awareness training for staff
  • looking at diversity in VEC procurement and
  • quarterly meetings for the RAP Committee.
The RAP gives the VEC an agreed set of measurable, tangible outcomes that demonstrate its commitment to the reconciliation process.
 

Disability Action Plan update

The VEC aims to facilitate electoral inclusion for people with a disability by empowering them with knowledge and skills to participate. This inclusion extends to the way VEC educates and recruits staff.

Notably the VEC has commenced an Australian first research project with LaTrobe University's Living with Disability Research Centre around strategies to support people with an intellectual disability to participate in voting.

Other DAP achievements this financial year:

  • the development and launch of the VotersVoice app
  • support from the Electoral Access Advisory Group (including focus groups)
  • enhancements to voting centre signage
  • hearing loops used at early voting centres for six councils at the October Local Government elections
  • disability awareness training for customer service staff
  • information sessions delivered to carers and
  • the employment of a full time Disability Electoral Inclusion Officer.
Coming up:
  • conducting outreach sessions across Victoria
  • enhancing VotersVoice for the 2018 State election
  • ensuring digital publications are fully accessible
  • creating a Passport to Democracy program for students with disabilities and
  • participating in International Day for People with a Disability.
The strategies applied from the DAP help the VEC to improve access across the whole Victorian electoral system. For a comprehensive list of activities please read the Disability Action Plan 2016-2019.
 

Continuing engagement with young people

An important part of the VEC’s education and inclusion work is to empower students and young people to actively participate in their democracy.

The VEC continues to run school incursions and provide free, curriculum-aligned resources for teachers and students through the Passport to Democracy program. Passport to Democracy encourages humanities, VCAL and primary-aged students to consider community-based issues important to them.

The VEC ran a successful workshop at the Victorian Government's first youth summit in March this year. Approximately 80 people, aged 12 to 25, participated in the  ‘Be Heard’  workshop, which focused on effective ways to promote ideas and how to create change in their communities.

Here’s what some of the participants had to say about democracy and what it means to them: 

“You might have heard, united we stand, divided we fall, so let’s unite and stop racism and discrimination”― Elvis.
“I think that youth - especially the youth of our generation have so much to say. …I think it’s really good, and can actually make a change in society” ― Jessica.

Another youth event sponsored by the VEC this year, was the annual Victorian Student Representative Council Congress (VicSRC), held over three days at Ormond College in Melbourne. 
Mia (pictured) is a 15 year old experienced student voice advocate who has attended the VicSRC Congress for the last three years. Mia says that in order to have her voice ‘heard’, she actively seeks out and takes part ‘in every leadership opportunity available’ to her.
Click through to watch a short video of young people like Thomas (pictured) talk about their experience at Student Congress.
 

Four teams were also sent to the YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament in July, giving young Victorians between the ages of 16-25 a chance to be heard at the highest levels of State Government. The four teams were made up of Gleneagles Secondary College, Shepparton High School, Castlemaine Secondary School and Wangaratta Youth.

Shepparton High School teacher Cam Smith, who attended the event with their students, wrote to the VEC to thank us for our support:

'I can confidently say that they all had an amazing experience in every way, from the interactions and friendships that they have made at the camp, through to obtaining invaluable first hand experience of the Parliamentary Process and all that it involves. I cannot thank the VEC enough for the support that has been given to our team; without it they surely would not have been able to participate.'

 

Sustainable living at the VEC


Over the last 12 months the VEC’s Resource Smart Committee (RSC), continued in its role of exploring and overseeing environmental efficiency gains, reducing resource consumption, and making improvements in waste management.

February 2017 was branded the ‘Shoe-a-day’ month where staff were asked to wear (as far as possible) a different pair of shoes each day, with the goal being that any shoes in good condition but no longer wanted by staff could be donated to a good cause. Clothing and accessories were also welcome during this time. In early March, 30 pairs of shoes were among the items donated to Wear for Success, an organisation that helps people getting back into the workplace.

In June 2017, the RSC hosted a Market Day event, where staff were invited to bring their unwanted household goods, books, clothes, etc, and others had the opportunity to purchase these items for a gold coin donation. The funds raised from this event went to Melbourne City Mission, which supports some of Victoria’s most vulnerable individuals, families and communities. The Market Day was a resounding success and the total raised from this event was $500. Leftover items that were not sold on the day were donated to the Salvation Army.

The RSC continued with the highly successful system for collecting soft-plastic bags via custom bins in all head office staff kitchens, capturing them before land fill and returning them to the recycling chain.

The VEC continues to make environmentally sustainable changes across all operations. A full review of resources dispatched during September 2016 took place in the lead up to the Local Government elections; this resulted in a massive reduction in the amount of paper products used during this time.

Work is currently underway to replace around 100 multifunction devices used during electoral events as they come to their end-of-life. They are being replaced with more efficient, environmentally friendly devices.
 


You are a previous recipient of the VEC's 'Selections' publication. This year, the publication has been published online.

Our mailing address is:

VEC
Level 11, 530 Collins Street
MelbourneVic 3000
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