Have you received an application to register a postal vote in the mail? If you thought you were supplying the NSW Electoral Commission with your details to vote in confidence, think again.
The free reply-paid applications will be heading straight back to the party that has ‘advertised’ on the form you filled out. They will take all your personal information from the application and then forward it on to the Electoral Commission on your behalf.
Shocked by the revelation that the material was not going straight to the Electoral Office, some local residents have called the practice out as ‘deceptive’.
‘I assumed that the information was put out by the NSW Electoral Commission as it is their official postal vote application,’ said one Byron Shire resident who asked not to be named. ‘I provided all my personal information, including my signature and date of birth. I never thought that the information was being returned to the Nationals or Greens parties,’ said a local resident who didn’t want to be named.
Sending out postal vote application forms is common practice according to Ben Franklin (Nationals) and Tamara Smith (Greens), and while Labor is not running a postal vote campaign in the seat of Ballina they do across other seats in the state.
‘We won’t be running a “postal vote campaign” here. We simply do not have enough money for such a campaign,’ said Labor candidate for Ballina Asren Pugh. ‘I would not run a postal vote campaign even if we could afford it. It is up to the voters to decide if they think the campaigns that have been run by Ben and Tamara are appropriate and transparent.’
The NSW Electoral Commission, while ‘not happy’ about the political parties’ practice, don’t provide electors with a general mail-out of postal-vote application forms.
Time for change?
Asked if they support legislative change to the current system so that parties can no longer send out postal-vote application forms, Mr Franklin said, ‘I do not support legislative change and feel that the current system works well in ensuring as many people as possible are educated about the upcoming election and electoral process.’
This position was supported by Tamara Smith, who told The Echo, ‘We provide this service to encourage people to exercise their vote and to undertake a postal vote, as many other parties and members do, and it is clearly identified as a service provided from my office.’
Parliamentary entitlements (ie from the taxpayer’s pocket) are often used by parties to pay for the cost of printing, distributing, and returning the material. Local MP Tamara Smith confirmed this with The Echo and states this on the front of the form she sent out. Local Nationals candidate Ben Franklin didn’t respond to this part of the question, and how it is paid for is not clear from the Nationals’ postal-vote applications distributed in the seat of Ballina.
If you are keen to keep your personal information private then you can go to https://www.elections.nsw.gov.au/Voters/Other-voting-options/Postal-voting and download a NSW Electoral Commission postal vote application and post it yourself. A postal-vote is available for anyone who will be overseas or interstate on the day of the election, or who has a disability. To ivote – go to www.ivote.nsw.gov.au for more information.