Typically, election preparations will begin 12 months before an election period. The work we undertook during 2020 included:
- a Memorandum of Understanding with the VEC
- policies and processes for receiving and assessing complaints efficiently
- communication strategies and material to promote understanding about our role in election matters.
We developed an online election complaint form in August 2020 with comprehensive user testing and plain English wording to ensure complainants could understand what we could and could not receive complaints about.
There were 381 complaints or enquiries lodged through the specific election complaint form during the election period. Other complaints related to electoral matters were also lodged through the standard online complaint form and other methods such as phone calls and email.
We are also aware of and appreciate the work councils and the VEC do in handling potential complaints that are resolved before reaching our office. The VEC received enquiries and complaints and was able to resolve low-level enquiries before they were referred to us.
However, we were sent examples of election managers who had given candidates inconsistent or conflicting information.
We will continue to work with the VEC to ensure messaging for candidates is clear and consistent in the future.
Anecdotal evidence indicated that many councils received enquiries from staff, councillors and local residents about potential breaches of the electoral provisions and resolved many of them during the election period.