QLD Electoral Commission pledges fair hearing for fined voters

ELECTORAL Commission Queensland is believed to have accumulated a pile of invalid votes during the Gympie region mayoral poll.

Possibly numbering thousands, the votes will never be opened or counted, because of irregularities, mostly caused by confusion, it seems.

Many people may have good reason for not voting, the ECQ said.

And even those with no excuse would have some good news, in the form of a 50% discount on fines if they were paid right now.

"Quite obviously there've been problems with it," candidate Lindsay Horswood said.

"The vote was so close. I don't think anyone was truly happy with the system."

"I can see a lot of benefit in postal voting, but the system at that election was totally flawed," mayoral runner-up Ian Petersen said.

"There was insufficient education of the electorate," he said.

In a written response to The Gympie Times this week, ECQ said it did not yet know how many people had unlawfully failed to vote.

Letters sent to vote defaulters this week were the first stage of an investigation to determine who had broken the law and who had a legitimate explanation.

"The second stage is the issue of an infringement notice where a fine is levied against people who have failed to respond to the first notice or have not provided a valid or sufficient reason."

This would apply to both the state election and the mayoral by-election.

The ECQ said the issuing of please-explain letters to people who appeared to have defaulted on their voting obligations was "a normal post-election procedure under Electoral Acts".

"Election day and pre-polling for the state election involved almost 10,000 staff across 1800 polling booths and it is an unfortunate, but understandable inevitability that human error may have occurred.

"The purpose of the current mail-out is to ensure that our records in relation to voter attendance are correct, and that we do not issue infringement notices to any person who did in fact vote or who has a valid and sufficient reason for not voting.

"In addition, the Electoral Acts provide incentive for people to quickly finalise their failure to vote by offering a 50% reduction from the fine that would be charged if an infringement notice were to be issued.

"Penalties exist for persons providing false or misleading information," it said.

Gympie Times

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