Voters will be encouraged to cast their ballots in person for Queensland’s 2020 general election, to be held on October 31, provided there are no COVID-19 outbreaks.
- The Queensland state election is to be held over two weeks with extended “pre-polls”
- Voters will be allowed to cast ballots in person
- The Electoral Commission is ready to conduct a full postal vote in event of an outbreak
The State Government announced its plans to Parliament on how the Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) would be directed to conduct the poll.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the Government wanted to ensure conditions were safe and that, notwithstanding any outbreaks of COVID-19, a stand-up vote was the preferred option.
“We want people to turn out in person to vote — that’s their democratic right to do so,” Ms D’Ath said.
“But if there ends up being cluster outbreaks in any area of the state, we also want to make sure the ECQ have the power and resources to react quickly to potentially turn them into full postal votes for those areas.”
Ms D’Ath said that would mean the vote in any electorate encountering an outbreak would be delayed and that electorate would be a postal vote.
In order to minimise mass gatherings of people at any one voting centre, the Government said Queensland would have an “election period” — not just an election day.
Lessons learnt from bungled live-feed
The ECQ was criticised by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in March over the commission’s failure to provide live results of the council and two state by-elections.
At the time, Ms Palaszczuk said she had been “pretty disappointed” and ordered a review of what went wrong.
Ms D’Ath said she had been assured staff had since undergone training to ensure results were updated live.
The March election was highly controversial given the unfolding pandemic and Ms D’Ath said lessons had been learnt as a result.
“In March, we saw we had to take extraordinary measures to ensure it was safe for people to vote in the local government election and the two state by-elections,” Ms D’Ath said.
“But the measures that we took delivered a safe outcome — there were no positive tests as a result of the election or the by-elections.”
Ms D’Ath said the Government had already passed legislation to allow the ECQ to conduct a full postal vote in the event of a second wave.
She said it would be a last resort and the Government was working with Australia Post on how the votes would be quickly returned.
“It could be done, however it comes with great risks like not getting the ballots to people in time, and not getting the ballots returned in time to be counted,” Ms D’Ath said.
In March, more than 70 per cent of the postal votes were received after election day.
“If that’s the case, you wouldn’t get a result until long afterwards,” Ms D’Ath said.
As a precaution, enough special envelopes have been ordered for a state-wide postal vote.
“Or where [people] are particularly vulnerable, we’ll give the ECQ the powers to broaden the scope of the class of people who can do telephone-assisted voting,” Ms D’Ath said.
Sausage sizzles and the sale of food at voting centres will be dependent on the advice of Queensland’s Chief Health Officer at the time.