Confusion causes low voter turnout

CONFUSION among voters resulted in one of the lowest returns in Queensland in last month's Central Highlands Regional Council election.

Mayor Peter Maguire yesterday put the confusion down to compulsory postal voting across the region.

Residents of the area were sent letters detailing the state and local elections.

The letters included enrolment details to be taken to polling booths, and said they could be used for both elections.

The lowest return in any electorate using postal voting was 65.82%, only marginally worse that the Central Highland's 66.15% return.

"We didn't have polling, I just see that as one of the problems that has been brought to me by the people," Cr Maguire said.

"Especially in large towns people get a lot of junk mail, I think people didn't take any notice of the papers probably.

"But we had 76% last election with almost the same population. I think people were probably over elections as well."

He said it was a hard decision whether to keep it all postal in the future.

"A combination of both would be ideal," he said.

"Some people have to drive a couple hours to go voting. And if there's flooding or rain you're not going to get in anyway.

"Councils should be given the option to run the voting, we're certainly capable. One of the things we found was the cost of these two elections was significantly more than if the council had run it."

The Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) confirmed state wide turnout, at 80.3%, was the worst in state history and put the low Central Highlands turnout down to numerous issues.

In a statement they said "factors that typically may influence participation include the close proximity of elections and the level of interest generated by each local contest," pointing to the recent state election and the lack of a mayoral race.

"The drop in participation was not the result of any failure by either the ECQ or council to advertise the elections," it said.

"A further factor that may be the number of Queenslanders who are eligible to be registered but are not, mainly through their failure to update their details when they move address."

Re-elected Cr Paul Bell put the turnout down to a lack of communication.

"I think the ECQ needs to significantly change each process of community education if anyone is going to have any confidence in voter turnout," he said.

"It left a lot to be desired and people have continually shown concerns because they threw their votes away with the thought they could go to a polling booth."

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