Voters’ who don’t reply face fines

MOST infringement notices issued to those deemed not to have voted at last year’s Frankston City Council elections were because no response was received to apparent-failure-to-vote notices, the Victorian Electoral Commission says.

The notices were sent out to 17,322 Frankston voters – or 16.31 per cent of those 106,203 enrolled.

The VEC says the notices are not a fine but an “opportunity for people to explain why they didn’t vote. The VEC urges recipients not to ignore the notice”.

Spokesman Mike Lagastes said they resulted in 1857 infringement notices being issued to voters for not providing a valid response, and 11,146 infringement notices for not responding at all.

On the Mornington Peninsula, apparent-failure-to-vote notices were sent out to 12,531 of the shire’s 156,170 registered voters. About 80 per cent related to no response being received to the initial failure-to-vote notice. This figure is said to compare favourably with previous elections.

Mr Lagastes said voter turnout at Frankston’s three wards was: North-East Ward 73.55 per cent; North-West Ward 66.25 per cent and South Ward 71.62 per cent.

He was responding to complaints on social media sites that voters had been sent infringement notices for not voting when they are adamant they had. The fine is $78.

Frankston MP Paul Edbrooke said “many people who believe they voted correctly expressed concern on social media that they may have been fined for not voting”.

“My office has been contacted by about 10 people who wished to pursue the issue,” he said.

Mr Lagastes said there had “been a lot of cases” where ballot material had been returned to the VEC after the deadline of 6pm 21 October.

He said there were “no reports of mass delays in the post that would have contributed to that many people sending their notices back late”.

“In some cases voters may have written down the wrong date, with some even putting down November and December. Others simply said they had forgotten [to vote],” he said.

To complete a postal vote, voters must sign and date the declaration envelope that is then placed into a larger reply paid envelope. “If this declaration is dated by the voter after the close of voting on 21 October 2016, this is a late return and we are obliged to conduct non-voter follow-up,” he said.

“Submitting a postal vote after the deadline is the same as not making it to a polling booth before it closes in an attendance election. You are considered to have not voted.”

Mr Lagastes’ advice to voters is to “make sure you respond to the infringement notice, especially if you didn’t reply to the apparent-failure-to-vote notice.

“If you did vote, or believe you had a valid excuse for not voting, request an internal review and provide the VEC with as much supporting information as possible so we can make an independent assessment of your circumstances.”

He said the 1300 551 575 helpline can provide specific personal advice.

First published in the Frankston Times – 17 April 2017

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