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Electoral legislation amendment bill welcomed

20 Jan 2016

In December 2015 the Government introduced into Parliament a Bill which seeks to amend the Electoral Act. The changes proposed in the Bill aim to increase voter participation and decrease the level of informal voting in Northern Territory Elections. As the Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill is due to be debated in Parliament early in 2016, community organisations including COTA NT have been asked to comment on the provisions of the Bill as it relates to seniors.

The key features of the Bill are:

  •  Reinforcing that enrolment is compulsory
  • Allowing any enrolled voter to apply for a postal vote or to lodge a pre-poll vote.
  • Allowing electronic lodgement of postal vote papers once security and secrecy issues have been addressed.
  • Prohibiting canvassing within 500 metres of a polling booth, including the distribution of how to vote cards and other political material.
  • An extra week for eligible postal votes to be received and included in the count of votes
  • Allowing the draw for positions on the ballot paper to be conducted at sites to be determined by the Electoral Commission (i.e. not just Darwin)

COTA NT is of the view that the two most significant issues of benefit for seniors is the prohibition of canvassing within 500 metres of a polling booth and the proposal for an application for a postal vote or lodgement of a pre-poll vote.

Many complaints are received by the Northern Territory Electoral Commission about the difficulties of gaining entry to polling locations which required running a gauntlet of campaign workers handing out election material. This is often intimidating particularly for seniors – for this reason the proposed amendment is welcomed.

A further convenience for seniors now is the planned option of attending an early voting centre if the polling centre cannot be reached on voting day.

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