Poor behaviour blemishes commencement of early voting

Thursday 17 November 2022

For immediate release

In the first 3 days of early voting in the State election, more than 400,000 Victorians have cast their vote in person, and another half a million postal votes have been mailed to voters.

Electoral Commissioner, Warwick Gately, says that he has been impressed with the number of people getting out early to organise their vote, and that figures were considerably higher than for the equivalent period in 2018.

‘We responded to voter feedback for an increased number of early voting centres and increased hours of operation for this election. While expecting higher numbers of early voters, this has surpassed our expectations,’ Mr Gately said.

Mr Gately went on to say that while he was pleased with the early turnout, he was extremely disappointed by instances of poor behaviour by some party workers and campaign volunteers at a handful of early voting centres.

‘Party and other campaign workers play an important role at elections and have the right to represent the interests of their party or candidate,’ Mr Gately said.

‘Where I draw the line is when voters, election staff, other volunteers and nearby traders feel unsafe or intimidated when trying to vote, work or play their role in the election. Our people have been trained to ask for collaboration and a harmonious environment. If their requests for cooperation are not met and the safety of others is at risk, I will seek police intervention, restrict volunteer numbers or take other measures open to me.’

‘Our primary role is the conduct of a fair and impartial election, not arbitrating altercations. Our people are well-intentioned citizens. It is already very challenging to recruit and train enough election staff, and a common theme in feedback from staff in 2018 was that they would think twice about working at this election given the behaviour issues they had to deal with. I would like all election participants to be patient, respectful and courteous to each other.’

Mr Gately said that the Victorian Electoral Commission has also issued ‘cease and desist’ notices to a small number of independent candidates and political parties this week on a variety of matters. These notices are formal requests to rectify matters that appear to breach electoral laws.

‘We provide extremely comprehensive resources for both parties and candidates that clearly lay out all aspects of electoral compliance. We brief every registered political party more than once, and independent candidates similarly attend an information session ahead of the opening of nominations. Where rules have not been followed we have pursued a constructive compliance approach. We provide advice and request compliance first, and then increase the level of enforcement if breaches of the Electoral Act continue to be ignored.’

Early voting will operate until 8 pm this evening, from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday, and include a night with extended hours next week. Election day is Saturday 26 November and voting will be open from 8 am to 6 pm.

For early voting centre locations, or more information on the State election, please visit vec.vic.gov.au or call 131 832