The ECQ will be implementing measures to make voting safer.
The ECQ will be implementing measures to make voting safer. Brett Wortman

COVID-19: What ECQ is doing to make polling booths safer

THE Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) is implementing a range of extra measures for the 2020 local government elections to make sure that a safe environment is provided to Queenslanders voting in the elections.

The ECQ has been closely monitoring statements by the Prime Minister and the advice of health authorities in considering how to conduct polling in these elections.

"The local government elections are proceeding in accordance with advice that only non-essential mass gatherings should be cancelled", said Queensland's Electoral Commissioner, Mr Pat Vidgen.

"Elections facilitate an essential service by providing for democratic representation for Queenslanders.

"However, we recognise that this is an extraordinary situation and are adapting our service model accordingly. This includes additional hygiene precautions and people management measures to be implemented at the nearly 1500 early voting centres and polling booths across Queensland.

"I ask for the understanding and cooperation of all voters to make sure that the elections are conducted smoothly and with minimal impact on voters and election staff.

"This is a unique and evolving situation and we will update voters if circumstances change. I encourage people to check the ECQ website for up-to-date information about how to cast their vote", Mr Vidgen said.

Applications for postal votes will close at 7pm on Monday, 16 March 2020, in accordance with the Local Government Electoral Act 2011. This deadline is established under the legislation for the election on 28 March and cannot be altered by the ECQ.

"Understandably, there has been a huge demand for postal votes this weekend.  Since Friday afternoon, we have received over 96,000 new applications for postal votes", Mr Vidgen said.
The ECQ extended its operating hours over the weekend in order to respond to the anticipated level of demand.

Additionally, the ECQ will be implementing a range of new measures for people attending early voting centres and polling booths to vote in-person.

This includes sourcing additional supplies of hand sanitiser for use by voters at polling booths.  Due to high levels of demand, these supplies are expected to be available at early voting centres by mid-week.

Voters are also encouraged to bring their own pen or pencil with them to vote as an additional hygiene precaution.

Other measures include:

• Additional cleaning of polling booth areas will be undertaken to ensure that all surfaces are regularly disinfected.
• Extra staff will be employed at polling booths to assist with queue control and monitoring numbers of people in attendance.
• Vote issuing tables and screens will be positioned to maximise distance between all people in attendance.
• New measures will be implemented to take votes of residents of aged care facilities which were to be 'declared institutions'.
Early voting will start from Monday, 16 March 2020 and generally open from 9am to 5pm during the first week of early voting, and from 9am to 6pm during the second week of early voting.  The ECQ will be monitoring demand and is exploring options to extend voting hours.

Further information will be released and published on the ECQ website about extended opening hours during the early voting period.

It is important to remember that voting is compulsory. Electors should consider which voting options are most suitable for them at these elections.

Key election dates:
• 22 February - Notice of Election
• 28 February - Close of electoral roll
• 22 February to 3 March - Candidate nominations
• 4 March - Ballot paper draw
• 16 March - Early voting commences
• 16 March at 7pm postal vote applications close
• 28 March 2020 - election day
For media queries email or phone 0438 120 699.

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