Pre-poll voting on KI for future Federal elections

AEC ADVERTISING: This July 12, 2018 edition of The Islander newspaper shows the AEC advertisement that left Kangaroo Island off the map of Mayo.
AEC ADVERTISING: This July 12, 2018 edition of The Islander newspaper shows the AEC advertisement that left Kangaroo Island off the map of Mayo.

The Australian Electoral Commission will set up a pre-poll voting facility on Kangaroo Island during future Federal elections.

The early voting centre will be based in Kingscote in the same facility that will be selected for use on election day.

This follows confusion in the previous Mayo by-election when Kangaroo Island was left off a map of Mayo in pre-poll voting advertising material.

The AEC did not provide pre-polling on the Island for that by-election. 

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie said the changes follow persistent advocacy from herself over the issue. 

Ms Sharkie said she received a letter from Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers last week confirming an early voting centre would be open for voters for one week in the lead-up to the 2019 Federal Election.

“This is fantastic news for the Island and I’m glad I continued to push the AEC to revisit the issue when, after the 2018 by-election, they initially rebuffed the possibility of a pre-poll voting centre based on KI’s voter population,” Rebekha said.

“I wrote back and pointed out that Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, which has a similar voter population, was provided with pre-poll voting in the last Federal Election as was Phillip Island in Victoria, which has a bridge to the mainland.

“While a week does not match the three-weeks allocated to pre-poll centres on our mainland during the by-election, which I believe was too long, this extra time does offer more opportunity for Islanders to exercise their democratic responsibilities.”

Liberal candidate for Mayo, Georgina Downer, who is running again, also supports the KI pre-poll decision.

“I am very pleased the AEC has responded to community concern and announced that there will be a pre-poll centre on Kangaroo Island at the upcoming Federal Election,” Ms Downer said. “Requiring Islanders to travel to the mainland, at great expense, in order to cast an early vote is unacceptable.”

In terms of when the election is likely to be, she said Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made it very clear that the Federal Budget will be handed down on April 2 and the Election will be held after that, most likely in May. 

In his letter to Ms Sharkie, Commissioner Rogers said the AEC had considered the situation on Kangaroo Island.

“As you pointed out, with 4500 residents, Kangaroo Island comes very close to our 5000 resident threshold and we anticipate it may get even closer then factoring in tourists,” Mr Rogers said.

“The AEC also acknowledges that the closest alternative early voting centre is in Victor Harbor which is a 45-minute ferry trip and then a 60km, 45-minute drive.”

In response to Rebekha’s complaint about the absence of Kangaroo Island from the maps used in the AEC’s advertising during the by-election, Mr Rogers said the material was created for the by-election only and maps would not be included in the official guide that is distributed to households for a full Federal Election.

“As a national product, and with approximately 8000 polling places, unlike a by-election, the guide does not include detailed maps and polling place locations for every electoral division,” he wrote.