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Policies pertaining to security and handling of electoral ballots

Benno Rice made this Freedom of Information request to Australian Electoral Commission

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From: Benno Rice

Delivered

Dear Australian Electoral Commission,

I wish to request copies of any and all policies that deal with the handling and security of both Senate and House of Representatives ballot papers during a Federal election.

Yours faithfully,

Benno Rice

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Australian Electoral Commission

Thank you for contacting us.

This is an automatic response from the Australian Electoral Commission to confirm we have received your email.

For more information on enrolling to vote, federal elections or the AEC, visit www.aec.gov.au.

Please do not respond to this email.

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From: Antonia Exposito
Australian Electoral Commission


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Dear Mr Benno Rice

 

I refer to your email dated 5 August 2017 3:34 AM in which you request
(‘your FOI Request] to the Australian Electoral Commission (‘AEC’) under
the [1]Freedom of Information Act 1982 for access to documents relating to
electoral ballots.

I have interpreted your request as seeking:

·        Copies of any and all policies that deal with the handling and
security of both Senate and House of Representatives ballot papers during
a Federal election.

We received your request on 5 August 2017 and the 30 day statutory period
for processing your request commences from the day after that date. You
should therefore expect a decision from us by 5 September 2017. The period
of 30 days may be extended if we need to consult third parties, impose a
charge or for other reasons. We will advise you if this happens.

You will be notified of any charges in relation to your request as soon as
possible, before we process any requested documents or impose a final
charge.

Please note that information released under the FOI Act may later be
published online on the AEC’s disclosure log [2]at
http://www.aec.gov.au/information-access..., subject to certain
exceptions. (For example, personal information will not be published where
this would be unreasonable.)

We will contact you using the email address and phone that you provided.
Please advise if you would prefer us to use an alternative means of
contact. If you have any questions, please contact:

email:                          [3][email address]

fax:                             02 6293 7657

post:                           Locked bag 4007, Canberra ACT 2601

telephone:                   02 6271 4528

 

Antonia Exposito | FOI & Administrative Assistant

Legal Services Section | Legal & Procurement Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: (02) 6271 4405 | F: (02) 6293 7657

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[4]Australian Electoral Commission logo [5]Australian Electoral Commission

From: Benno Rice [[6]mailto:[FOI #3766 email]]

Sent: Saturday, 5 August 2017 3:34 AM

To: INFO <[7][AEC request email]>

Subject: Freedom of Information request - Policies pertaining to security
and handling of electoral ballots

 

Dear Australian Electoral Commission,

 

I wish to request copies of any and all policies that deal with the
handling and security of both Senate and House of Representatives ballot
papers during a Federal election.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Benno Rice

 

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From: Owen Jones
Australian Electoral Commission


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Attachment LS6200 Attachment A.pdf
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Benno Rice
Right to Know Organisation

Dear Mr Rice

I refer to your email dated 5 August 2017 3:34 AM to the Australian
Electoral Commission (‘AEC’) in which you request (your ‘FOI Request’)
access under the [1]Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the ‘FOI Act’)
access to information about policies pertaining to security and handling
of electoral ballots.

2                    I am writing today to give you a decision about
access to documents that you requested in your FOI Request.

Summary

3                    I, Owen Jones, Senior Lawyer of the AEC, am an
officer authorised under section 23(1) of the FOI Act to make decisions in
relation to FOI requests.

4                    Specifically you sought access to:

Copies of any and all policies that deal with the handling and security of
both Senate and House of Representatives ballot papers during a Federal
election.

5                    I identified six documents that fell within the scope
of your request.

6                    I did this by directing inquiries about the
whereabouts of relevant documents to the AEC’s .

7                    The schedule of relevant documents in the attached
Acrobat file LS6200 Attachment A.pdf (‘Attachment A’) provides a
description of each document that falls within the scope of your request
and the access decision for each of those documents.

8                    With regard to the documents that you requested (set
out in Attachment A), I have decided to:

(a)        refused access three documents and to offer in lieu to grant
access to edited versions those documents; and

(b)        refuse access to the remaining three documents.

9                    More information, including my reasons for my
decision, is set out below.

Decision and reasons for decision

Decision

10                 With regard to the documents identified in Attachment
A, I have decided:

(a)        to refuse access to Document Nos. 2, 3, 4 under section 47E
(Public interest conditional exemptions—certain operations of agencies) as
providing access would be contrary to the public interest and in lieu to
offer to grant access in part to Document Nos. 2 with exempt matter
deleted under section 22 of the FOI Act;

(b)        to refuse access to Document Nos. 1, 5 and 6 under section 47E
(Public interest conditional exemptions—certain operations of agencies) as
providing access would be contrary to the public interest.

Material taken into account

11                 I have taken the following material into account in
making my decision:

(a)        the content of the documents that fall within the scope of the
FOI Request;

(b)        the [2]Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the ‘Electoral Act’),
specifically Part XXII (Court of Disputed Returns) and the definition of
‘illegal practice’ provided by section 352 of that Act;

(c)        the FOI Act, specifically sections 3, 3A, 11A, 11B, 22 and 47E;
and

(d)        the guidelines (‘[3]FOI Guidelines’) issued by the Australian
Information Commissioner under section 93A of the FOI Act, specifically
paragraphs 6.1 – 6.28 and 6.95 – 6.123.

Reasons

12                 Attachment A indicates each document to which access
is refused. My reasons for refusing access are given below.

Public interest conditional exemptions—certain operations of agencies

13                 With respect to Document Nos 1-6, I made the findings
recorded in the entry in Attachment A for each document.

14                 Subsection 47E of the FOI Act conditionally exempts a
document, among other things, if its disclosure under the FOI Act would or
could reasonably be expected to have a substantial adverse effect on the
proper and efficient conduct of the operations of the AEC.

15                 Subsection 47E of the FOI Act provides:

47E  Public interest conditional exemptions—certain operations of agencies

A document is conditionally exempt if its disclosure under this Act would,
or could reasonably be expected to, do any of the following:

(a)       prejudice the effectiveness of procedures or methods for the
conduct of tests, examinations or audits by an agency;

(b)       prejudice the attainment of the objects of particular tests,
examinations or audits conducted or to be conducted by an agency;

(c)       have a substantial adverse effect on the management or
assessment of personnel by the Commonwealth or by an agency;

(d)       have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient
conduct of the operations of an agency.

Note:   Access must generally be given to a conditionally exempt document
unless it would be contrary to the public interest (see section 11A).

16                 I explain how the FOI Act applies to Document Nos 1-6
in the entry in Attachment A for each document.

17                 In making my decision about Document Nos 1-6, I had
regard to the following matters that the I considered relevant in the
entry in Attachment A for each document.

18                 Accordingly, I am satisfied that the Document Nos 1-6
fall within the scope of the conditional exemption for deliberative matter
provided by paragraph 47E(d) of the FOI Act.

Weighing of public interest factors

19                 Under subsection 11A(5) of the FOI Act, access to a
document covered by a conditional exemption must be given unless it would
be contrary to the public interest.

20                 My weighing of public interest factors relating to
Document Nos 1-6 is described in the entry in Attachment A for each
document.

21                 Accordingly, I am satisfied that the Document Nos 1-6
ae conditionally exempt under paragraph  47E(d) of the FOI Act and because
disclosure would be contrary to the public interest and that the Document
Nos 1-6 should be treated as exempt from disclosure under the FOI Act.

Preparation of an edited copy

22                 In accordance with section 22 of the FOI Act I next
considered whether it is both possible and practicable to prepare an
edited Document Nos 1-6 from which information about security measures
applied by the AEC to protect the integrity of ballot papers during
movement in the course of the counting process is redacted.

23                 Section 22 of the FOI Act provides:

22  Access to edited copies with exempt or irrelevant matter deleted

Scope

(1)       This section applies if:

(a)     an agency or Minister decides:

(i)      to refuse to give access to an exempt document; or

(ii)     that to give access to a document would disclose information that
would reasonably be regarded as irrelevant to the request for access; and

(b)     it is possible for the agency or Minister to prepare a copy (an
edited copy) of the document, modified by deletions, ensuring that:

(i)      access to the edited copy would be required to be given under
section 11A (access to Document Nos. on request); and

(ii)     the edited copy would not disclose any information that would
reasonably be regarded as irrelevant to the request; and

(c)     it is reasonably practicable for the agency or Minister to prepare
the edited copy, having regard to:

(i)      the nature and extent of the modification; and

(ii       the resources available to modify the document; and

(d)     it is not apparent (from the request or from consultation with the
applicant) that the applicant would decline access to the edited copy.

Access to edited copy

(2)       The agency or Minister must:

(a)     prepare the edited copy as mentioned in paragraph (1)(b); and

(b)     give the applicant access to the edited copy.

Notice to applicant

(3)       The agency or Minister must give the applicant notice in
writing:

(a)     that the edited copy has been prepared; and

(b)     of the grounds for the deletions; and

(c)     if any matter deleted is exempt matter—that the matter deleted is
exempt matter because of a specified provision of this Act.

(4)       Section 26 (reasons for decision) does not apply to the decision
to refuse access to the whole document unless the applicant requests the
agency or Minister to give the applicant a notice in writing in accordance
with that section.

24                 I had regard to paragraphs 3.85 – 3.90 of the FOI
Guidelines.

25                 I found that it is not possible to prepare an edited
copy of to Document Nos 1, 5 and 6 from which information about security
measures applied by the AEC to protect the integrity of ballot papers
during movement in the course of the counting process is redacted is
redacted for the reasons given in the entry in Attachment A for each
document.

26                 I found that it is both possible and practicable to
prepare an edited copy of to Document Nos 2, 3 and 4 from which
information about security measures applied by the AEC to protect the
integrity of ballot papers during movement in the course of the counting
process is redacted is redacted for the reasons given in the entry in
Attachment A for each document..

27                 The offer in paragraphs 28 – 30 of this email is made
for the purpose of the consultation required by paragraph 22(1)(d) of the
FOI Act.

Offer of access to edited copies

28                 In paragraph 12 of this email I indicated that I would
offer you access to edited copies of Document Nos 2 3 and 4 from which
exempt or irrelevant matter had been redacted.

29                 The terms of that offer follow:

(a)        The offer remains open for 60 days from the dated of this
email;

(b)        The offer is conditional that accept the edited copies in
satisfaction of you FOI Request for the relevant Document Nos 2 3 and 4;
and

(c)        the offer must be accepted in writing signed by you (this may
be scanned and sent by email to me using my contact details below.

30                 If this offer is not accepted within the 60 day period,
my decision to refuse access to Document Nos 2 3 and 4 will stand.

Your review rights

31                 If you are dissatisfied with my decision, you may apply
for internal review or Information Commissioner review of the decision. We
encourage you to seek internal review as a first step as it may provide a
more rapid resolution of your concerns.

Internal review

32                 Under section 54 of the FOI Act, you may apply in
writing to the AEC for an internal review of my decision. The internal
review application must be made within 30 days of the date of this email.

33                 Where possible please attach reasons why you believe
review of the decision is necessary. The internal review will be carried
out by another officer within 30 days.

Information Commissioner review

34                 Under section 54L of the FOI Act, you may apply to the
Australian Information Commissioner to review my decision. An application
for review by the Information Commissioner must be made in writing within
60 days of the date of this email, and be lodged in one of the following
ways:

online:                              
[4]https://forms.business.gov.au/aba/oaic/f...

email:                     [5][email address]

post:                      GPO Box 52189, Sydney NSW 2001

in person:               Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW

35                 More information about Information Commissioner review
is available on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
website. Go to [6]www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-information/foi-reviews.

Questions about this decision

36                 If you wish to discuss this decision, please contact me
at:

email:                     [7][email address]

fax:                        02 6293 7657

post:                      Locked bag 4007, Canberra ACT 2601

 

Regards

Owen Jones

Owen Jones | Senior Lawyer

Legal Services Section | Legal and Procurement Branch

Australian Electoral Commission

T: (02) 6271 4528 | F: (02) 6293 7657

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[8]Australian Electoral Commission logo [9]Australian Electoral
Commission

This email may contain legal advice that is subject to legal professional
privilege. Care should be taken to avoid unintended waiver of that
privilege. The Australian Electoral Commission’s Chief Legal Officer
should be consulted prior to any decision to disclose the existence or
content of any advice contained in this email to a third party.

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