Australia

No fine for those too scared of COVID to vote in Queensland council election

The 270,000 people who failed to cast a ballot, for the first time in their voting history, at the Queensland local government elections in March will not be fined.

But repeat offenders - Electoral Commissioner Pat Vidgen said an estimated 50,000 electors who did not vote on March 28 had failed to vote at previous elections - would not be let off the hook.

An election official uses hand sanitiser at the Brisbane City Hall polling booth on March 28.

An election official uses hand sanitiser at the Brisbane City Hall polling booth on March 28.Credit:Jono Searle - Getty Images

The Electoral Commission of Queensland made the decision because of the COVID-19 threat at the time, but the same leniency will not be shown during the October 31 state election.

"The ECQ recognises that many electors who wanted to vote in the local government elections or by-elections may not have voted due to a heightened anxiety about COVID-19," Mr Vidgen said.

"In coming weeks, about 30,000 electors will receive a warning letter because they missed voting in more than one election, including March, and have not provided an excuse or responded to the ECQ.

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"The approximately 20,000 electors who are repeat non-voters across multiple elections and have made no effort to engage with the ECQ will be sent an ‘apparent failure to vote’ notice and be invited to explain their reason for not voting.

"If they are unable to provide a valid reason or do not engage with the ECQ, they will receive a fine.

"We remind electors that voting is compulsory and, with expanded voting options for the October state general election, concerns over COVID-19 won’t be considered a valid reason for not voting."

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