Election complaints double in 2020

Our comprehensive report into the local government elections, to be published next month, will detail the numbers and trends of complaints we received during the 2020 elections.

During that period, we received 848 complaints which is a 107% increase on complaints in relation to the 2016 election period.

Over the 31 days of the election period, our staff were handling on average 36 complaints per day.

Social media has changed the election landscape across the world and was a significant feature in Victoria’s local government elections. In 2020, we received more than 350 complaints relating to online content.

On our online complaint form, we asked complainants to choose from a list of topics that best suited their complaint. We also categorised complaints received by email or phone in the topic areas shown here.

The first topic encompassed a wide range of issues that are commonly seen in elections and so we saw the greatest number of complaints fall into that topic area - related to alleged failures to comply with the election material authorisation provisions of the Act, which require the authoriser’s name and address to appear at the end of the material.

Election complaint topics; Content, authorisation or distribution of election material; I don't think this candidate is eligible to run for election; A current councillor is improperly using their position or council resources for their election campaign; COVID restrictions; Someone tried to bribe, intimidate or otherwise improperly influence another person; someone has misused the voters' roll; interference with postal ballots

The intent of this requirement is to allow voters to access the source of the information and allow an opportunity to question the author or publisher of statements made in that campaign material.

Another allegation theme that emerged during the elections was complaints about misleading or deceptive matters.

Many complaints disputed the accuracy of statements made by other parties in material published either by themselves, or other candidates.

In most cases, complainants believe that any statement that is not totally accurate constitutes an offence. However, the courts have ruled (Evans v Crichton-Browne (1980)) that statements may be considered misleading and deceptive because they lead the voter to mark the ballot paper in a way, other than correctly, and not where untrue statements may contribute to the formation of an opinion about a candidate.
The full report will be published on our website in June.