Postal vote applications

A number of people have reported that candidates in the forthcoming Federal Election are enclosing postal vote applications in mail outs to households. This is perfectly legal, and is a great help to some people, I’m sure – but as with any form it’s important to think about what information you are filling in.

Here’s a one of the forms:
1147751_10152090186614045_165610949_o
(Photo courtesy of A. Burke – You can view the original form on the AEC website here: http://www.aec.gov.au/election/pva/)

In section 6, it asks you to provide a “security question”, much like you’d see on any website’s password reset forms. In fact, exactly like them. And presumably the Australian Electoral Commission needs this information.

BUT… if you return the form using the Reply Paid envelope your local candidate enclosed, the form doesn’t go directly to the electoral commission. It goes to the candidate, who will then forward it on. The candidate’s office therefore will have access to all the information on the form as well (including your email address, phone number and password reset answers). The already, incidentally, know your full name, address and date of birth from the electoral roll.

And why does your candidate need this information? Well, we don’t know… and they don’t have to tell us. Under Section 7C (4) of the Privacy Act, candidates of political parties (and their staff) are exempt from the Privacy Act during election campaigns. This means they may collect information about you, not disclose that they have done so or why, and you have no right to ask them why they need to know or what they do with it.

The safest option is to return your application forms directly to the AEC at:

Australian Electoral Commission
Reply Paid 9867
[your capital city]

or do so in person.

Naturally, if you are able to vote in person on the day, that is the best course – you won’t need to divulge your phone number, email address or password reset answers to anyone.

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