INTRODUCTION

The election of South Australia’s 54th Parliament took place against the backdrop of significant changes in the electoral landscape compared to previous elections. These included an extensive redistribution of the House of Assembly electoral boundaries, as well as substantive changes to the Electoral Act (1985) (the Act) enacted by the South Australian Parliament in the four years since the previous election. These included the abolition of voting tickets and the introduction of optional preferential voting for the Legislative Council.

This election saw an upswing in both the number of electors enrolled to vote and the number of nominations lodged. While encouraging, the increase in enrolled electors masks a declining rate of youth enrolment.

In this chapter, topics include the electoral redistribution, legislative changes, the issue of the writs, enrolment, and nominations for both houses of Parliament. We also introduce the new funding and disclosure arrangements which are covered in more detail in Chapter Six and provide information about party registration. All of these elements set the scene for the 2018 State Election.


ELECTORAL REDISTRIBUTION

After every state election, South Australia’s independent Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission (EDBC) examines the boundaries of the House of Assembly electoral districts to ensure that South Australian electors continue to have effective representation as demographics change. Serving on the three-person 2016 EDBC were the Chair, the Honourable Justice Ann Vanstone (senior puisne Judge of the Supreme Court), Mr David Gully (the Acting Electoral Commissioner) and Mr Michael Burdett (the Surveyor-General).

The EDBC published its Order on 7 December 2016 in which it altered all but one of the state’s House of Assembly districts (Mount Gambier). Boundaries were redrawn – substantially in some areas – with the goal of redistributing the population relatively equally, maintaining communities of interest to the extent possible, and as far as practicable, to achieve a parliamentary majority for the party that won the two-party preferred vote.

The redistribution resulted in around 400,000 electors changing electoral districts and a further 81,000 electors in seven districts having their districts renamed. These seven districts were:

  • Badcoe (formerly Ashford)
  • Black (formerly Mitchell)
  • Elizabeth (formerly Little Para)
  • Gibson (formerly Bright)
  • Hurtle Vale (formerly Fisher)
  • King (formerly Napier)
  • Narungga (formerly Goyder)
Details about the 2016 redistribution as well as official maps of the redrawn and renamed districts were published in the 2016 Report of the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission and on the EDBC’s website (edbc.sa.gov.au). Electors were also able to explore the boundaries and find their electoral district on the new interactive map ECSA launched before the State Election at ecsa.sa.gov.au/map.
ABOVE, ECSA’S INTERACTIVE BOUNDARIES MAP, 2014 BOUNDARIES IN BLUE, 2018 IN RED.
ABOVE, ECSA’S INTERACTIVE BOUNDARIES MAP, 2014 BOUNDARIES IN BLUE, 2018 IN RED.

Despite ECSA’s own efforts to publicise the unprecedented scale of the 2016 redistribution and its impact on electors through the interactive map and the distribution to every enrolled elector of an EasyVote Card detailing their electoral district, many South Australians remained unaware of the changes ordered by the EDBC.

According to ECSA’s 2018 Surveys of Electors, only one in three electors (32%) were aware of whether their district had changed or not since the 2014 State Election. Among electors who were aware of the redistribution, there was broad ignorance about why it had been ordered, with significant proportions blaming gerrymandering (28%) or unable to provide an explanation (33%).

Many electors were under the impression that ECSA had been responsible for the boundaries redraw. This misperception contributed to a decrease in the number of electors who felt that ECSA had conducted the State Election impartially from 93% in 2014 to 79% in 2018. The most frequently given reason for this change was a perception that the boundaries redistribution had been unfair.

Confusion over who is responsible for redrawing boundaries points to a need for the EDBC to do more to raise public awareness about any future changes it orders to boundaries. ECSA intends to discuss with the Chair of the EDBC the need to directly inform all residents of areas affected by boundary redistributions about the changes it orders and the reasons for those changes.



LEGISLATIVE CHANGES

The Act gives effect to South Australians’ right to vote in state elections by setting the framework for the state electoral process. ECSA conducts state elections in accordance with its provisions.

A range of electoral reforms enacted by the South Australian Parliament since 2014 had an impact on the conduct of the 2018 State Election. Major changes included the following (with a complete list available in Appendix 3):

Changes to the method of voting for the Legislative Council
Optional preferential voting was introduced for the Legislative Council. This allowed electors to either mark preferences above the line for more than one group, or to vote below the line by marking a minimum of 12 preferences for candidates instead of having to preference all candidates below the line as previously required.

Abolition of ticket voting for the Legislative Council
Group voting tickets for Legislative Council elections were removed from the Act in 2017, meaning that political parties or groups contesting the elections no longer determine the preference flow for above-the-line votes cast for that party or group.

Reduction of the deposit paid by House of Assembly candidates
From 2018, candidates nominating for election to the House of Assembly needed to pay a deposit of $1,000, a significant reduction from the previous $3,000. Another amendment to the Act meant that cash was no longer acceptable as a method of payment for a nomination deposit.

Electronically assisted voting for vision-impaired electors
Electronically assisted voting was authorised to allow electors whose vision is impaired to vote independently at state elections without seeking assistance. This provided this category of electors with the means of casting an independent and secret ballot (Chapter Four).

Obligation to promote voting at a polling booth on polling day
An obligation was placed on the Electoral Commissioner to promote and encourage the casting of votes at a polling booth on polling day. This is discussed in further detail in Chapter Four.



ISSUE OF THE WRITS

The trigger for a state election is the issue of the writs, which occurs 28 days before polling day. On Saturday 17 February 2018, the Governor of South Australia, His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, proclaimed the prorogation of Parliament and dissolution of the House of Assembly and issued writs for the 2018 State Election. One writ was issued for the election of the 47 Members of the House of Assembly and another for the election of 11 Members of the Legislative Council.

The writs set out the timetable for the election and provided the Electoral Commissioner with 74 days to successfully complete the elections before the writs had to be returned to the Governor.



ENROLMENT

At the close of rolls on Friday 23 February 2018, 1,201,775 electors were registered on the state electoral roll and eligible to vote at the State Election, a significant increase of 5.2% from the 2014 Election and the largest ever roll for a South Australian election. This increase reflects population growth, the effects of the federal direct enrolment program and a surge of enrolments in 2017 for the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey. The average number of electors per House of Assembly electoral district was 25,570, with the highest number of electors enrolled in Elizabeth (28,399) and the lowest in Flinders (22,756).

South Australians responded positively to ECSA’s enrolment campaign in the lead-up to the close of rolls. During the six-day period from the issue of the writs to the close of the rolls there were close to 25,000 enrolments and updates to the electoral roll, representing an increase of 68.2% from the same period in 2014.

Despite this success, a breakdown of the electoral roll by age groups shows that a significantly high proportion of younger South Australians were not on the roll for the Election.

An estimated 37.4% of eligible 18-year-olds (up from 31.9% in 2014) and an estimated 13.2% of all eligible 18 to 24-year-olds were not enrolled to vote. These estimates of electors against the voting eligible population were calculated by the AEC by reducing an estimate of non-eligible persons from the total population. However, for consistency with past

Election Reports they should also be compared with the number of enrolled electors estimated against the total population of South Australians of voting age. By this measure, 38.9% of 18-year-olds and 25.4% of 18 to 24 year-olds were not on the roll at this election.

ELECTORS ENROLLED BY AGE GROUP

ECSA believes there is more work to be done to improve enrolment levels among young people, citizens from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and Aboriginal South Australians, including those living in the APY Lands and other remote communities.

To counter the lower rate of enrolment among these groups, ECSA plans to look for opportunities to further enhance its enrolment strategy ahead of the next State Election. This will support a comprehensive enrolment drive in collaboration with the AEC which includes targeted engagement activities for underrepresented sectors of the population such as young people, CALD groups and Aboriginal citizens. ECSA’s efforts to build engagement with electors in CALD and Aboriginal communities are discussed in more detail in Chapter Three of this Report.

 

A CALL FOR LEGISLATIVE CHANGE: ENROLMENT ON THE DAY

The declining rate of enrolment of younger electors and the increasing numbers of non-voters are a matter of concern not isolated to South Australia. Indeed, there has been longstanding unease about both trends among electoral commissions and commentators in Australia, New Zealand and further afield.

One of the solutions to address falling participation rates successfully implemented by ECSA’s counterparts in New South Wales (NSW), New Zealand (NZ), Queensland and Victoria (as well as most Canadian jurisdictions) has been to allow people to enrol after the close of rolls. Although the commissions of these jurisdictions continue to have and to advertise a close of rolls, they allow enrolment on the day as a ‘savings provision’ to enfranchise people who inadvertently miss the close of rolls. This helps avoid the situation at each election where thousands of people turn up to polling booths and are told they are not on the roll and cannot vote.

ECSA did not record the number of people who attended a polling place at the 2018 State Election and walked away when told they were not on the roll, but we are aware from polling official feedback that there were many potential electors in this circumstance. Records were kept of those who insisted on casting a vote, claiming there must have been an error with the roll. Of the 7,318 people who did so in 2018, just 153 (2%) had their House of Assembly vote counted and 852 (12%) their Legislative Council vote counted, after investigation of their enrolment.

NSW (since 2011) and Victoria (since 2010) permit enrolment up to and including on polling day. NZ (since 2005) and Queensland (since 2017) allow enrolment and voting during the early voting period but not on polling day itself - although Elections NZ is currently investigating extending enrolment to polling day.

The Victorian and NSW electoral commissions consider enrolment on the day a success. In both jurisdictions, the number of voters who have made use of this provision has significantly increased: in NSW from 20,960 in 2011 to 41,978 in 2015; in Victoria from 34,546 in 2010 to 50,653 in 2014. In NZ, where late enrolment has been in place longer, there has been an even more significant rise in enrolments after the close of rolls: from 35,363 in 2005 to 130,757 in 2017 (including 53,000 at pre-poll centres).

Given the success of late enrolment options elsewhere in Australasia, ECSA seeks legislative change to bring South Australia into line with other jurisdictions and allow eligible electors to enrol up to and on polling day. Although ECSA would continue to actively promote the close of rolls, enrolment on the day would be a savings provision to help ensure that as many South Australians as possible can participate in state elections.

Recommendation 1.
That the Act be amended to enable eligible electors to enrol up to and on polling day. After claiming enrolment, these electors would be allowed to cast declaration votes which would not be admitted to the count until an enrolment investigation had been satisfactorily completed in the week after polling day.



 

A CALL FOR LEGISLATIVE CHANGE: ITINERANT ELECTORS

There is broad consensus in Australia that the lack of a permanent residential address should not disenfranchise people from voting. All Australian jurisdictions, including South Australia, provide a special category of enrolment for people who do not have a fixed address. Broadly speaking, two categories of citizens are covered by the ‘itinerant electors’ enrolment category: people experiencing homelessness and people who are long-term travellers within Australia who do not have a permanent address to return to (some of whom are referred to colloquially as ‘grey nomads’).

Before the 2018 State Election, ECSA’s stakeholder partners from the homeless sector raised concerns during consultation that by encouraging their clients to enrol as itinerant electors and participate in the Election, they could be setting them up for failure. Concern centred on the fact that under the Act while enrolment is not compulsory for itinerant electors, voting is compulsory. If a homeless person takes the positive step of enrolling as an itinerant elector, and then for whatever reason does not vote at an election, they will be issued with a failure to vote notice which they will be unlikely to receive given their lack of a fixed address. A failure to respond will then become a fine which left unpaid leads to accumulated late payment fees and potentially court action. As stakeholders pointed out, far from connecting homeless people with the democratic process, the current system is likely to exacerbate the fears and suspicion that many hold towards government.

To resolve this issue and remove the barriers to electoral participation by homeless people, other jurisdictions including the Commonwealth and NSW have amended legislation to exempt itinerant electors from compulsory voting. This allows electoral commissions in these jurisdictions to encourage homeless people to enrol and vote without fear of consequences if they fail to do so. ECSA recommends legislative change to harmonise South Australia’s legislation with the Commonwealth, and exempt itinerant electors from compulsory voting at state elections. This requires Parliament to add being an itinerant elector to section 85(8) of the Act.

ECSA also seeks legislative changes to section 31A(10) of the Act so that itinerant electors who fail to vote at a state election or who remain outside the state for a period of more than one month are not stripped of itinerant status and removed from the electoral roll. Both provisions are inconsistent with the Commonwealth legislation, which leads to a situation whereby South Australians who enrol as itinerant electors and then do not vote or go travelling are removed from the roll for state elections but continue to be enrolled for federal elections. This is another case where harmonisation with the Commonwealth would be beneficial. This provision is important for grey nomads and other non-overseas travellers, who are currently unable to remain on the state roll if they leave the state for more than one month.

Recommendation 2.
That the Act be amended so that itinerant electors are exempted from compulsory voting at state elections.

Recommendation 3.
That the Act be amended to avoid inconsistency with the Commonwealth Electoral Act (1918), so that itinerant electors who fail to vote at a state election, or who remain outside South Australia for a continuous period of more than one month, continue to be entitled to be enrolled as itinerant electors.





PARTY REGISTRATION

The cut-off date for lodging an application to register a political party for the 2018 State Election was 15 September 2017. ECSA published reminders about the application deadline on its website and social media.

There was keen interest in party registration in the lead-up to the State Election. ECSA received applications for registration from five new political parties, four of which were registered in time for the election. One application did not meet the requirements of the Act in time for the cut-off date resulting in that party not being registered for the election.

Following a review of the 2017 Annual Returns, two parties were identified as not meeting their ongoing registration requirements. Both were given an opportunity to demonstrate that they were able to meet their registration requirements. While one party, the Danig Party of Australia (SA Division), was able to satisfactorily show that it had met the requirements, the other party, Shooters and Fishers Party SA, was unable to do so and was subsequently de-registered on 13 February 2018 for failing to meet the requirements of section 43A of the Act.

By the time the writs were issued in February 2018, a total of 14 parties were registered, with 12 of them standing candidates at the Election, compared to 15 in 2014. A full list of registered political parties for the 2018 State Election can be found in Appendix 2.



NOMINATIONS

In 2018, the nomination period opened on Monday 19 February and closed at 12 noon on Monday 26 February. Candidates endorsed by political parties were required to submit their nominations by 5pm on Friday 23 February. On 26 and 27 February, ECSA conducted the declaration of candidates and then draws for position of names on ballot papers for each House of Assembly district and the Legislative Council respectively.

At the close of nominations, ECSA had received 307 nominations for the 2018 State Election, a significant increase on the 267 nominations received in 2014. There were 264 candidates for the 47 House of Assembly districts, up from 204 in 2014, an average of six candidates per district.

 FAST FACTS

Fast Fact 1
Fast Fact 2
Fast Fact 3

 



CANDIDATES FOR EACH HOUSE BY GENDER, 1997-2018

This increase may have reflected the substantial reduction in the nomination deposit candidates were required to pay. A total of 43 candidates nominated to contest the 11 vacancies in the Legislative Council, compared with 63 in 2014. Across all elections, 288 candidates were endorsed by registered political parties and 19 candidates stood as independents.

Of the nominations, 62.5% were male and 36.8% were female, with two candidates self-identifying as ‘other’. The number of female candidates nominating in 2018 was the highest since 2002 and as a percentage of total nominations, at 36.8% was the highest rate of female participation ever recorded in South Australia.

In late January 2018, ECSA hosted briefings and information sessions for registered parties and prospective candidates. There were five briefing sessions for parties, comprising one each for the Labor Party, Liberal Party and SA-Best, with a separate session for all other registered parties, and one for unendorsed candidates.

The briefings gave parties and candidates an opportunity to meet and ask questions of ECSA staff and hear first-hand about the nomination process, postal vote processing, complaints handling, vote counting and results.

Counting Votes



 

A CALL FOR LEGISLATIVE CHANGE: ONLINE PORTAL FOR CANDIDATE LODGEMENTS

The lodging and checking processes for nominations, how-to-vote (HTV) cards and voting tickets for the 2018 State Election was labour intensive for candidates, political parties and key ECSA staff. The processing of nominations and other lodged election materials within tight legislative deadlines can be one of the most challenging parts of a state election.

Over the past two decades, despite advances in technology, there has been little substantive change to the manner in which nominations, HTV cards and voting tickets may be lodged. The process continues to involve lodgement of paper forms, followed by manual data entry and multiple rounds of checking by senior staff. Feedback from candidates and registered officers included calls for a more modern method for lodgements.

Technology offers the ability to significantly reduce the time and resources required for processing nominations, HTV cards, voting tickets and other candidate-related information currently collected in paper forms. It can also allow for electronic lodgement of forms to enhance accuracy and streamline quality assurance practices.

For the 2022 State Election, ECSA seeks legislative support for a comprehensive candidate portal on the ECSA website containing all the tools that candidates and political parties need to complete and lodge their nominations correctly. Within the candidate portal, each candidate or party’s approved nomination data can then be used to automatically populate the fields of HTV cards and voting tickets, thereby reducing the margin for error. Candidates and parties will be able to arrange their preferences and then download a version to provide to their graphic designers which fully complies with the regulations. Once prepared, the final HTV cards would be uploaded to the portal for checking and lodgement, avoiding issues which some parties experienced in 2018 with version control and email lodgement.

Recommendation4.
That the Act be amended to prescribe a method for the electronic lodgement of nominations, voting tickets and how-to-vote cards to enable more accurate, timely and robust mechanisms that assist and support parties and candidates with meeting legislative obligations.

Voting Cards



FUNDING AND DISCLOSURE EDUCATION AND ENGAGEMENT

On 1 July 2015, Part 13A (Election funding, expenditure and disclosure) was inserted into the Act. This marked the first introduction of a funding and disclosure scheme in South Australia and this State Election was the first to have the scheme in operation.

In the lead-up to the Election, ECSA delivered a comprehensive education and engagement program to inform participants of their obligations under the new funding and disclosure scheme. ECSA produced extensive guides and conducted briefing sessions for political parties, associated entities, third parties and candidates. Although political parties and associated entities had been engaged and lodging periodic returns since July 2015, they still benefited from education on the increased disclosure requirements during an election period.

ECSA maintained regular communication with stakeholders through emails, telephone calls, lodgement reminders and a weekly Funding and Disclosure Newsletter. Although some compliance issues were identified during the election, ECSA took a collaborative approach and with its close working relationship with stakeholders was successful in implementing the funding and disclosure scheme for the 2018 State Election.

For more information on funding and disclosure, see Chapter Six.

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