Postal voting falls short in South Gippsland

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There is a local council election currently being held in South Gippsland Shire in eastern Victoria.

South Gippsland’s former dysfunctional council was sacked in 2019 and replaced by administrators. The rest of Victoria held their council elections in late 2020, but South Gippsland was delayed until late 2021.

That election is currently underway, but has come unstuck due to Victoria’s system of universal postal voting for council elections falling short as Australia Post has struggled to meet the increased demand for its services in the recent wave of lockdowns.

While postal voting is an option at federal and state elections, and at local council elections in states like New South Wales and Queensland, Victoria provides postal voting as the only option for its council elections, as do some other states.

In theory, this makes it theoretically easier to hold an election under pandemic restrictions, if you boil an election down to the voting process and ignore actual campaigning.

But in circumstances where everything is moving online and we are relying on the postal system even more, this has turned out to be a problem in this council election.

The ballot papers were originally due to arrive by last Friday, October 22, but a large proportion of ballot paper packs did not arrive in time. The Victorian Electoral Commission has now extended the deadline by one week to give people time to vote.

Issues will arise with elections, but I think we should take this as a warning of the consequences of relying entirely on postal voting for elections. It will always have a role, but it doesn’t replace voting in person.

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