Electoral Commission SA confirms 20 per cent rise in 'silent electors' each election year

FINDINGS: Electoral Commission SA deputy commissioner David Gully highlights a consistent number of SA enrolled electors who request to have their address suppressed. Photo: Supplied
FINDINGS: Electoral Commission SA deputy commissioner David Gully highlights a consistent number of SA enrolled electors who request to have their address suppressed. Photo: Supplied

A consistent rise in the number of South Australia enrolled electors who request to have their address suppressed for personal reasons has been recorded in the state since 2006.

Findings by the Electoral Commission SA reveal, of the 1.23 million SA current electors enrolled, 14,181 people have chosen to apply to register as a 'silent elector'.

Deputy commissioner David Gully says while this figure equates to about 1.1 per cent of all electors, the premise of the suppression is to protect people who are at risk in the community.

"While it is a particularly relevant option for victims of domestic violence, given the risks to their personal safety, it is also an option for many other people," Mr Gully told Australian Community Media.

Examples, he shared, include judges, police officers, parliament MPs, health workers engaged in specific mental health areas, high profile personalities, sporting identities.

"Having their address suppressed gives them some level of comfort that they will remain safe and their privacy will be retained," he said.

Further figures provided by the Commission highlighted that for each state election year between 2006 up to 2018, there has been about a consistent 20 per cent increase in the number of 'silent electors' recorded.

"The next state election is in March 2022 and it could be expected that the growth by that time might get to around the 20 per cent mark again."

While it is a particularly relevant option for victims of domestic violence, given the risks to their personal safety, it is also an option for many other people.

Electoral Commission SA David Gully

Meanwhile, Mr Gully explained that Section 21 of the Act was introduced in 1985 following the re-writing of the 1929 Act which became the Electoral Act 1985.

"The Act provides for the administration of the electoral roll to be managed under a joint roll arrangement with the Commonwealth."

This includes who is eligible to be enrolled and special enrolment arrangements, such as those for persons with no fixed place of residence, such as homeless persons, and those who, under Section 21 of Act seek to have their address suppressed from public access on the roll.

While the provision is referred to as being a 'silent elector' Mr Gully stressed, "we don't take away your Democratic voice".

"It is simply an elector's place of residence that is suppressed from publication on the roll, their name is still displayed on the electoral rolls used for any election and they are still obliged to vote under the compulsory voting provisions of the Electoral Act."

"The main purpose for such a provision is that the electoral roll is, and has always been, available for public inspection at an electoral office, and up until 2009, the Act provided for the roll to be available for purchase.

Although, Mr Gully believes the Commission ceased selling copies of the rolls earlier.

However, while the roll can still be accessed publicly, at an Electoral Commission office, details regarding an elector with a suppressed address will not be shown, other than their name.

Finally, it is a requirement that each elector wishing to be a silent elector, make an application, accompanied by a statutory declaration that supports the claim that their personal safety, or that of a person who resides with them, might be put at risk should their address be publicly available.

Mr Gully said, often his office assists with enquiries from various groups and organisations, directing them to the relevant information and forms needed to be completed.

All information regarding access to having an address suppressed from the roll is available on the Electoral Commission of SA website and also the Australian Electoral Commission website.

This story 'Silent elector' provision offers protection first appeared on The Murray Valley Standard.