Privatised poll will save up to $80,000

IN a measure that will save Shoalhaven City Council $70,000 to $80,000 the upcoming council election will be run by a private company.Shoalhaven City Council is one of 15 local councils that made the decision to privatise democracy following changes to legislation permitting councils to conduct their own elections.Mayor Paul Green said the decision to hand over the running of the September 8 poll to the Queensland-based Australian Election Company was made following complaints about the NSW Electoral Commission’s running of the previous election.“There were certain booths were people couldn’t vote in different wards and some people were turned away from where they normally voted. There weren’t enough voting boxes at some booths and there were people going into the rubbish to get votes out,” said Cr Green.Secretary of Vincentia Ratepayers Elizabeth Tooley, who worked as a scrutineer at her local booth at the last election, said it was run like a “third world country”.She wrote a letter to council complaining about staffing levels, hour-long queues, lack of security for ballot papers and the failure to have separate boxes for mayoral and council ballot papers giving polling officers an extra two-and-a-half hours’ work at the end of the day.Cr Green said council used to run its own elections 12 years ago, and would have looked at that as an option again, but most of the staff involved had since retired.Australian Election Company director Richard Kidd said his company had run elections since March 2006 and he had worked for the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) for 26 years.“I don’t know how much the Electoral Commission charged to run the election but I believe we can conduct it in accordance to the act,” said Mr Kidd.“Our booths won’t be understaffed as we use a more liberal table loading,” he said referring to the ratio of votes per table in booths.He said the AEC used 660 votes per table whereas his company used fewer.He also plans to use the same returning officer, Grahame Allen, as the last election.“Any returning officer should have quite a good idea about the numbers of ballot papers required per booth.“We always provide a reserve in advance – we don’t want people running out.”This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.