The Australian Electoral Commission will abolish 730 polling booths — about one in 10 — at the next federal election, partly due to the rapid growth in early voting, which has more than doubled since 2007. Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers revealed to The Australian that he would scrap 253 polling places across NSW, 197 in Victoria, 133 in Queensland, 51 in South Australia, 44 in Western Australia, 38 in Tasmania, 10 in the ACT and four in the Northern Territory. Mr Rogers said the decision to close 730 of the 7697 polling booths used at the last election had come after an audit to make better use of staff and resources and also because the number of votes cast before election day has risen from 1.1 million in 2007 to 2.5 million in 2013.
In his first wide-ranging interview since being appointed to the job almost a year ago, Mr Rogers also raised concern that the Senate ballot paper was unwieldy and confusing because the small print for names had shrunk to a font size of 7.5 point (15 per cent smaller than this text in The Australian) as the number of candidates in some states had reached 100. He said he was worried it was not fostering democracy.
While he was meticulous to stay out of the political debate about Senate voting reform, Mr Rogers cautioned parliament that it must give the AEC enough time to put in place any changes, warning that if computer systems were not adjusted, tested and certified it could require the first manual count of the complex Senate vote since the 1980s and take two months to know the result.