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The Australian Electoral Commission, or the AEC, is the federal government agency in charge of organising and supervising federal elections and referendums. State and local government elections are overseen by the Electoral Commission in each state and territory.

The Australian Electoral Commission also maintains the Commonwealth Electoral Roll. Under the Joint Roll Arrangements, the AEC maintains the electoral roll for the whole of Australia. This roll is used by the state and territory Electoral Commissions to conduct their elections.

The AEC also plays a leading role in electoral education and industrial voting (votes on industrial action).

History and structure

The AEC was first established in 1902, as a branch of the Department of Home Affairs. In 1973 it became the Australian Electoral Office, a name it retained until 21 February 1984 when it became the Australian Electoral Commission, a Commonwealth statutory authority.

The AEC consists of a Chairman (a Judge or a retired Judge of the Federal Court), the Electoral Commissioner and a non-judicial member (usually the Australian Statistician). The Electoral Commissioner has the powers of a Secretary of a Department under the Public Service Act 1999 and the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1998. The Chairperson and the third, non-judicial member both hold their offices on a part-time basis.

AEC has a National Office in Canberramarker and State Offices in Adelaidemarker, Brisbanemarker, Darwinmarker, Hobartmarker, Melbournemarker, Perthmarker and Sydneymarker.

Each federal electorate has a Divisional Returning Officer responsible for administration of House of Representatives elections within their division. Each State also has an Australian Electoral Officer responsible for administration of Senate elections.

Responsibilities

The AEC's major responsibilities are to run federal elections, by-elections and referendums. Election Rolls must always be up-to-date to run these elections, and the AEC must also follow up electors who fail to vote and publish detailed election results. The AEC is answerable to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters of the Parliament of Australia, and must report on how elections were carried out and the success of the elections in general.

In 1984 a change to the Commonwealth Electoral Act allowed for the grace period after an election is called before the electoral rolls are closed to be extended to seven days. Many people either enrol or change their enrolment details in this period. Prior to the 2004 federal election there were 423,993 changes to enrolment were processed in the close of roll period; of these, 78,816 were new enrolments and 225,314 were changes of address.

For the 2007 Federal Election, new laws have been passed to reduce the grace period for new enrolments to 8pm on the same business day as the issue of the writs, and for those who need to update their address details, they are given until 8pm on the third business day after the issue of the writs.

The AEC also plays a major role in electoral education, aiming to educate citizens about the electoral process by which representatives are elected, and by which the constitution is changed (referendums).

List of Australian Electoral Commissioners

Commenced Finished Commissioner
21 February 1984 26 November 1989 Colin Anfield Hughes
18 December 1989 20 December 1994 Brian Field Cox
16 January 1995 14 January 2000 Wilfred James "Bill" Gray
23 March 2000 1 July 2005 Andrew Kingsley "Andy" Becker
2 July 2005 22 September 2008 Ian Campbell
5 January 2009 Present Ed Killesteyn


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