There wasn’t much chance of catching COVID-19 from the queues outside the polling booth at St John’s Lutheran School in Kingaroy on election day in March

August 5, 2020

Will you get fined if you didn’t vote at the Council elections in March? The official response is … it depends.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland announced on Wednesday it was “implementing a tailored response” to non-voters.

“The ECQ recognises that many electors who wanted to vote in the local government elections or by-elections may not have voted due to a heightened anxiety about COVID-19,” Electoral Commissioner Pat Vidgen said.

“While voting is compulsory, we understand the extraordinary circumstances around the March elections and have tailored our response to non-voters accordingly.”

First-time non-voters will not be fined or receive a warning from the ECQ.

However, because of the expanded voting options on offer, COVID-19 concerns won’t be considered a valid reason for other residents not voting.

“In coming weeks around 30,000 electors will receive a warning letter because they have missed voting in more than one election, including March, and have not provided an excuse or responded to the ECQ,” Mr Vidgen said.

“The approximately 20,000 electors who are repeat non-voters across multiple elections and have made no effort to engage with the ECQ, will be sent an ‘apparent failure to vote’ notice and be invited to explain their reason for not voting.

“If they are unable to provide a valid reason, or do not engage with the ECQ, they will receive a fine.”

Mr Vidgen said ECQ staff were pleased to have delivered the March local government elections without a spike in COVID-19.

“This excellent outcome was due to careful adherence to the Chief Health Officer’s advice, the diligence of our staff, and the sensible response by electors when voting,” he said.

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Mr Vidgen said preparations were well advanced to deliver a COVID-safe State general election in October.

“The ECQ is using all the lessons from March to ensure a safe and fair general election in October,” he said.

“This means voters will be provided with every opportunity to vote while accommodating health requirements.

“We urge electors to plan for the election, to choose whether they’ll postal vote, vote early or on election day, and be clear about their choice of candidate and their order of preferences.”


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