26 September 2023

Refused How-To-Vote cards win their hand

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A decision by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) to refuse the registration and publication of four How-To-Vote cards for this weekend’s election has been overturned by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Prior to his temporary absence from the Commission, Electoral Commissioner Warwick Gately said three candidates running in tomorrow’s State election (26 November) had requested a review of the VEC decision.

Mr Gately said the registered How-To-Vote cards were the only form of electoral material that may be handed to voters within 400 metres of a voting centre on election day.

“The VEC had originally refused to register the cards due to a concern that voters were likely to be misled by them,” Mr Gately said.

“The cards showed a representation of the ballot paper for the respective district elections with a ‘1’ marked for the candidate and then left boxes for all other candidates empty,” he said.

“A ballot paper for a district election must have a preference in every box to be accepted as formal.”

Mr Gately said the VEC would now incorporate VCAT’s decision to allow the cards into this year’s processes for registering How-To-Vote cards and would publish the four cards which followed the format that had been in dispute.

He said the VCAT decision would help inform the VEC’s future requirements in respect of How-To-Vote cards.

“In the fullness of time, the VEC will report to the Parliament in relation to recommended legislative clarifications, particularly around the regulation of campaigning in a contemporary State election setting,” the Commissioner said.

“VCAT’s decision acknowledged the VEC’s threshold for considering what may constitute misleading and deceptive, but was not satisfied that the individual How-To-Vote cards themselves met that threshold given that wording on the cards encouraged voters to number all the boxes,” he said.

“The Supreme Court has previously noted that ‘reasonable minds may differ’ in the conclusions they reach for matters of this type,” Mr Gately said.

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