NSW Electoral Law
Ah its that time again. Vehement promises of change from the Premier and the Opposition leader; ads for candidates plastered on every available light pole and billboard.
Every four years we vote to elect the next NSW government. Saturday is voting day.
Feelings about political parties aside, a look at the law around voting may interest you. Particularly technological changes and penalties for breaching the NSW Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act.
Most people would probably be aware that voting is compulsory for Australian citizens who are 18 or over. If youre eligible, youre supposed to enrol. If you dont, you could be fined $55.
A recent change in the law means that the NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) can now automatically enrol people on the electoral register when they turn 18, and change the details of current electors, like their address. They do this by accessing information from state and commonwealth government agencies, such as the RTA and the Board of Studies. Its called SmartRoll. The idea is to make sure people are enrolled in the right electorate (each of the 93 electorates in NSW is supposed to have a roughly equal number of voters), and that young people start to vote as soon as theyre eligible.
Youll know if youve been smartrolled because the NSWEC sends at least two notifications. You can object if the information is wrong, but otherwise youre expected to vote in NSW and local government elections, or cop the $55 penalty.
Its relatively new, so many of NSW unregistered eligible voters wont automatically make the roll in time for Saturdays vote. But new electors now have the option of enrolling on election day, and voting the same day.
The law also supports a new electronic voting system called iVote. People with impaired vision or other disabilities, those living in remote areas, or people interstate or overseas on election day, can vote via phone or internet using a unique pin code and iVote number.
In terms of the voting process, if you leave the ballot paper blank, or dont properly follow the instructions, its an informal vote. Thats not illegal, but its a waste of a vote.
Among other offences, you cant vote more than once, and its illegal to fill out a ballot paper and place it in a ballot box if it has not been lawfully issued to you (ballot box stuffing). Bribery, or threatening and intimidating someone to influence their vote, can carry an $11,000 penalty and/or 3 years in gaol, as can hacking into the iVote system.
At the end of the day, the laws are designed to make enrolment easy, and voting fair, so that we ultimately get the leaders the majority of us actually want. Democracy is a beautiful thing.