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Electoral Commission Report Confirms Need for Parliamentary Election Inquiry

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 22 July 2021

Tags: Parliament, Democracy, Legislative Council

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Acting Greens Leader

The Electoral Commission’s Analysis of participation rates at the 2021 Legislative Council elections is sobering reading and reinforces the need for an external inquiry. 

Concurrent House of Assembly and Legislative Council seat elections have never occurred in Tasmania before. The report makes it clear the unexpected state election left the Electoral Commission scrambling – they were over-stretched and under-resourced. 

In this circumstance, it’s not appropriate for the Commission to be left to review themselves. It is incumbent upon the Parliament to examine the May 1 elections to determine what democratic rights were denied, if the result was compromised, and to make recommendations for future elections. 

In the Commission’s assessment of the Windermere election, the Commission only considers ‘Group 2’ of the disenfranchised voters. Group 2 consisted of 231 voters, less than the 328 vote difference at the critical point of the election.

However, the Commission does not assess the impacts for ‘Group 1’, consisting of 1,723 voters, who were those voters who attended a House of Assembly only polling place. The Commission determined these people made a voter error – of a similar type to a voter who arrives to cast their vote after polling has closed, or casts an informal ballot.

More than 7% of voters in both Windermere and Derwent attended a polling booth that did not have a form available for them to vote in their Legislative Council election. That high percentage of voters in Group 1 is greater than what would be expected from usual voter error. 

The high proportion of people affected raises questions about the final result, and adds to concerns about the advertising advantage of the concurrent State and Legislative Council elections.

While we can’t be certain any result would have changed, the Commission’s report confirms thousands of Tasmanians were denied their democratic right to vote.

The Gutwein Government called the snap election, and created the issue. We urge them to do the right thing and support Independent MLC Meg Webb’s Joint House Inquiry into the 2021 State Election and Legislative Council Elections that has passed the Upper House and is now before the House of Assembly. It’s the least they can do. 

If the Liberals fail to support the Legislative Council’s move for an inquiry, it will raise further questions about the integrity of their conduct.