In the lead up to an election, you have probably received one or more official-looking letters from political candidates containing a postal vote application form. Besides the usual pre-election promises, these letters tell you that you can vote by post: all you need to do is to fill the form with your personal details and return it in the included reply-paid envelope.
Sounds easy and convenient, but don't rush yet! Have a closer look at the return envelope. Does it have the address of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) or the Electoral Commission of your state or territory? Most likely, it doesn't. These envelopes are usually addressed to your MP, a political party candidate, or even some mysterious “Postal Vote Centre” or “Returning Officer” at PO Box XXX to avoid mentioning any names or parties and risking to raise the voter's suspicion. Unfortunately, this practice of political parties dispatching such letters and then receiving postal vote applications may be improper and detrimental, but unfortunately not illegal. The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 permits political parties and candidates to distribute their own versions of postal vote application forms, which sadly creates an avenue for manipulating Australian elections. So, since the law provides no protection, to maintain fair elections and independent voting in a truly democratic country, Australian voters need to be aware of the implications of this practice and avoid it whenever possible.