Opinion Number. 408



Key Legislation


The Minister for Home Affairs

The Minister for Home Affairs asks for advice on the question raised in the following memo by the Chief Electoral Officer:

Political organisations apply for and obtain from the Post Offices or Returning Officers considerable numbers of 'K' forms-i.e. forms of application for postal vote certificates and postal ballot-papers which, it is believed, they distribute to persons who are regarded as supporters, and who it is thought will be absent from their homes, or the places for which they are enrolled, on polling day.

These forms are partially filled in with particulars of enrolment, and in certain cases are stamped with the name of a political organisation, or are otherwise identifiable as having been distributed by such an organisation.

Section 1 10a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides that all applications for postal vote certificates and postal ballot-papers received by a Returning Officer shall be kept by him, and shall be open to public inspection at all convenient times during office hours, until the election can be no longer questioned.

It will be noted that the representatives of political organisations concerned in distributing applications which are identifiable can attend at the office of the Divisional Returning Officer, and ascertain whether the persons with whom they have communicated on the assumption that they are supporters have used the forms forwarded to them, and although they cannot learn how these persons have actually voted, they can ascertain who among the persons communicated with have responded to the invitation, and so draw conclusions, particularly if a circular has accompanied the stamped application urging the elector to vote in a particular manner.

It would appear that, while no exception can be taken to political associations distributing application forms and circulars to electors, it is a violation of the spirit of the Act to brand such application forms in the manner indicated, and a question therefore arises as to whether any action can, or should be taken, to prevent it, by regulation or otherwise.

I shall be glad if the matter will be treated as one of urgency, in view of the fact that the writs for the forthcoming referendums will issue on the 15th instant.

In my opinion, it is contrary to the spirit of the Electoral Law that an application for a ballot-paper-which application is filed by the Returning Officer, and is a document open to public inspection-should bear the stamp of a political organisation or be identifiable as having been distributed by such an organisation.

In my opinion the Returning Officer may decline to receive a form bearing such marks of identification as not being a form in accordance with the Act.

It would, however, I think, be advisable to strengthen the position of the Returning Officer by a regulation providing that forms bearing such marks should not be received.

[Vol. 8, p. 328]