Time for Electoral Commission Queensland to get COVID-19 ready

The nature of elections has been irrevocably changed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the next state election will be very different, with far less voters turning out on the day itself.

Past Speaker of the Queensland Parliament and QUT Adjunct Associate Professor John Mickel says the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) should plan for changing existing practices for the smooth running and timely counting of ballots at the October 31 State election.

In particular, he says more time needs to be given to postal votes as people look to remain socially distant from others.

“The Queensland Local Government elections in March and the Eden Monaro by-election in early July showed there is now an election period rather than election day,” said Professor Mickel.

“Half the electorate is voting before the election day which means that the time to process postal votes and for close of nominations needs to be extended so postal votes can be mailed out, received, and returned within a bigger time frame.

“The ECQ must amend procedures in line with the new COVID-19 realities.

QUT Adjunct Associate Professor John Mickel

“Nominations for candidates should be closed earlier, and the ballot papers printed earlier so that people who apply for postal votes can receive and return them in plenty of time.”

Professor Mickel said there were complaints in the Local Government elections from people who applied for postal votes but either did not receive them or received them too late.

“The Commission has correctly increased the numbers of pre-poll centres but votes from those centres should be counted earlier on polling day so they can be included in the vote count on the Saturday night,” he said.

“It’s critical in a state-wide election that Queenslanders do not have a repeat of the Local Government elections and the vote count delay that occurred in the Eden Monaro by-election.

“These are important changes which favour no side of politics but ensure in a world of uncertainties that as much as possible the results of the election are known on election night.”

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