The AEC has published its plan for how it will adapt the Eden-Monaro by-election to account for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the stuff will be familiar to anyone who has visited any public place in recent months. Social distancing rules will be applied at polling places and the ballot draw, and hand sanitiser will be available when you turn up to vote. There will be limits on how many people can be inside each booth which will likely extend lines for voting.
The AEC will only receive nominations by appointment (no more just rocking up to the office) and voters will be provided with single-use pencils when they vote (although bringing your own writing implement is encouraged).
The AEC will not conduct mobile polling at nursing homes, instead encouraging those inside to use postal voting.
The AEC has clarified that they do not have jurisdiction over campaigning outside six metres of the entrance to the polling place, and thus have not tried to impose any rules limiting the handing out of how-to-vote cards, although they put the onus on candidates and parties to abide by whatever NSW Health rules are in place at the time of the by-election. They have agreed to post a website link for each candidate as part of the candidate information on the AEC website, but they have not gone further as some have suggested by providing how-to-vote information in other ways.
Finally, they anticipate a big increase in postal and pre-poll voting. There was some chatter about possibly allowing pre-poll votes to be counted before 6pm on election night to speed up the publication of results (it’s worth reading Antony Green’s blog post on this topic), but this won’t be happening.
So you should expect a significant delay in results on election night, and if it is close we likely will need to wait a few days for pre-poll votes to be counted to get a better sense. A very close result may take weeks as postal votes can arrive up to 13 days after election day.
Finally, I recommend checking out Michael Maley’s paper for the Electoral Regulation Research Network about how electoral management will be affected by Covid-19. I haven’t had a chance to finish it but I’m looking forward to it.