A WHOPPING $2.7 million in fines will be handed down to more than 20,000 Queenslanders unless they can provide a ‘valid reason’ for failing to vote in March, as authorities emphasise that virus concerns will not excuse absence in the upcoming state election.
The Courier Mail can reveal the Electorate Commission of Queensland (ECQ) will issue ‘apparent failure to vote notices’ to more to around 20,000 ‘repeat non-voters’ requiring them to provide a ‘valid reason’ for their failure to cast their ballot in the COVID-affected 2020 Council election.
“If they are unable to provide a valid reason, or do not engage with the ECQ, they will receive a fine,” of $133.45 each or $2.67 million it total – Electoral Commissioner Pat Vidgen said.
Another 30,000 Queenslanders will receive warning letters after failing to vote on ‘more than one occasion’, while 270,000 first-time non-voters will escape warning and penalty ‘in recognition of the unprecedented circumstances’ surrounding the March 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.
“While voting is compulsory, we understand the extraordinary circumstances around the March elections and have tailored our response to non-voters accordingly.”
The same leniency will not be extended to anyone who fails to vote in the 2020 state election, with the ECQ emphasising ‘concerns over COVID-19 won’t be considered a valid reason for not voting’.
The ECQ has already announced a statement of intent for the October which details a waft of COVID-safe voting measures including: increased postal vote capacity and early polling preparation.
“The ECQ is using all the lessons from March to ensure a safe and fair general election in October,” Mr Vidgen said.
“Voters will be provided with every opportunity to vote while accommodating health requirement.”
The ECQ expects to issue apparent failure to vote notices and warning letters from the March election ‘in the coming weeks’.
Originally published as Queenslanders to be fined $2.7m for not voting