National

Watchdog seeks to head off election doubts

By AAP Newswire

The electoral watchdog is concerned questions raised about the integrity of the US presidential election and other overseas polls could lead to an erosion of trust in Australian ballots.

A record 80 million postal votes are expected to be cast in the US elections.

However, political figures including Donald Trump have fuelled public concern about the risk of fraud.

Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers told a parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday he would be shortly making some new recommendations around better safeguards for elections.

"It's never been more topical or critical," he said.

"Building confidence and trust in elections is as complex as it's ever been."

The AEC's recommendations would cover cyber security, physical security of ballot materials and information integrity.

While not mentioning the US specifically, Mr Rogers said: "Given what is alleged to have occurred internationally over the last few years ... we need to make sure we are adapting our own service delivery posture to ensure our elections are as safe and secure as possible."

He said the AEC believed any delay to the declaration of final results could also undermine faith in the system.

It's expected the AEC will recommend law changes around postal and early voting, allowing it to count them as swiftly as possible "and still provide a reasonable result", he said.

In Victoria and NZ, laws have been changed to allow early votes to be reconciled before 6pm on election day so they can be counted quicker once the polls closed.

Pre-poll and postal voting has risen from 17.4 per cent in 2010 to 40.8 per cent in 2019, with the rate expected to rise in coming elections.

The AEC must wait 13 days after the election for postal votes to trickle in, meaning at least a quarter of seats remain undeclared for a fortnight.