Request for full preference data for Moreland North-West ward 2020 votes

The request was refused by Victorian Electoral Commission.

Dear Victorian Electoral Commission,

I request, under the Freedom of Information Act, the complete preference data for the Northwest Ward in the recent Moreland local government election.

There is considerable public interest in making the complete preferences available for independent analysis, particularly given the credible allegations of fraud. This would give independent experts and interested members of the public the opportunity to examine the data and assess the extent or likely beneficiaries of the alleged fraud. I note that your expert witness has asserted in a VCAT hearing that a particular elected Councillor is the likely beneficiary of fraud, but there is currently no opportunity for anyone to verify that claim.

I do not understand why the VEC keeps the complete preference data secret, and note that both the New South Wales Electoral Commission and the ACT Electoral Commission make their complete preference data public by default. (This happens to have been a useful tool for allowing independent analysis of the accuracy of their count, though that is not the primary purpose of this request to you.)

Yours faithfully,

Vanessa Teague

FOI, Victorian Electoral Commission

4 Attachments

 

Thank you for your email. We have received your request and will process
it  accordingly. 

 

Depending on the nature of your enquiry we may contact you, otherwise
please accept this email as acknowledgement of your request.

 

[1]Victorian Electoral Commission
Level 11, 530 Collins Street Melbourne Victoria 3000
[2]vec.vic.gov.au

[3]facebook[4]VEC_SOCIAL-LOGO---twitter[5]instagram
@electionsvic

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. https://www.vec.vic.gov.au/
2. http://vec.vic.gov.au/
3. https://www.facebook.com/electionsvic
4. https://twitter.com/electionsvic
5. https://www.instagram.com/electionsvic/

Anika Clynick, Victorian Electoral Commission

5 Attachments

OFFICIAL

Dear Ms Teague,

 

Please find attached the VEC’s preliminary response to your request for
information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) dated 17
December 2020.

 

If you have any further questions, please reach out to me.

 

Kind regards,

 

 

[1][IMG]

Anika Clynick (she/her)
Manager, Information Protection

Level 11, 530 Collins Street Melbourne Victoria 3000
[2][email address]
[3]vec.vic.gov.au

[4][IMG][5][IMG][6][IMG]
@electionsvic

The VEC acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land.
Due to COVID-19 I am working from home, therefore email is the best method
of contact for me.

 

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. http://www.vec.vic.gov.au/
2. mailto:[email address]
3. http://vec.vic.gov.au/
4. https://www.facebook.com/electionsvic
5. https://twitter.com/electionsvic
6. https://www.instagram.com/electionsvic/

Anika Clynick, Victorian Electoral Commission

4 Attachments

OFFICIAL

Dear Dr Teague,

 

I refer to your request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic)
(FOI Act) received on 17 December 2020.

 

Your request advised you are seeking access to:

 

 1. The complete preference data for the Northwest Ward in the recent
Moreland local government election

 

In order to properly assess your request, I would like to clarify what you
mean by “complete preference data”. As 'preference data' is not defined in
legislation or regulations, I would like to have a conversation that will
result in a shared understanding of the term.

 

Could you please provide a phone number and your availability over the
next few days so that I can arrange a conversation with the right people?

         

Kind regards

 

[1][IMG]

Anika Clynick (she/her)
Manager, Information Protection

Level 11, 530 Collins Street Melbourne Victoria 3000
M 0403 611 761
[2][email address]
[3]vec.vic.gov.au

[4][IMG][5][IMG][6][IMG]
@electionsvic

The VEC acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land.
Due to COVID-19 I am working from home, therefore email is the best method
of contact for me.

 

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. http://www.vec.vic.gov.au/
2. mailto:[email address]
3. http://vec.vic.gov.au/
4. https://www.facebook.com/electionsvic
5. https://twitter.com/electionsvic
6. https://www.instagram.com/electionsvic/

Anika Clynick, Victorian Electoral Commission

5 Attachments

OFFICIAL

Dear Dr Teague,

 

Please find attached a further letter from the VEC regarding your request
for information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) received
on 17 December 2020.

 

If you have any further questions, please reach out to me.

 

Kind regards,

 

[1][IMG]

Anika Clynick (she/her)
Manager, Information Protection

Level 11, 530 Collins Street Melbourne Victoria 3000
T 03 8620 1262
[2][email address]
[3]vec.vic.gov.au

[4]cid:image003.png@01D6EF37.73B79860[5]cid:image004.png@01D6EF37.73B79860[6]cid:image005.png@01D6EF37.73B79860
@electionsvic

The VEC acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land.
Due to COVID-19 I am working from home, therefore email is the best method
of contact for me.

 

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. http://www.vec.vic.gov.au/
2. mailto:[email address]
3. http://vec.vic.gov.au/
4. https://www.facebook.com/electionsvic
5. https://twitter.com/electionsvic
6. https://www.instagram.com/electionsvic/

Dear Ms Clynick,

I am sorry if the term "complete preference data" was ambiguous. I request the data file consisting of the complete set of votes cast in the Northwest Ward in the recent Moreland local government election. Each record (or line) in the file should correspond to a ballot, and should contain the complete preferences written by the voter on that ballot. This is the file from which (I trust) the VEC derived the announced election outcome.

I used the term "preference data" because that is what the NSW Electoral commission calls the file when they publish their equivalent online. (See for example this link for Albury: https://pastvtr.elections.nsw.gov.au/LGE...)

The AEC uses the term "Formal preferences" when they publish the relevant files for the Senate (see https://results.aec.gov.au/24310/Website... for example).

Elections ACT uses the term "preference data" when they publish it online here: https://www.elections.act.gov.au/electio...

I do not mind whether informal ballots are included or not - if "complete preference data" was ambiguous for that reason, then I apologise and would accept the preference data file with or without the informal ballots.

As to the question of whether this data file is a 'document', I am not a lawyer but I refer the VEC to Agency Practice Note 9 from the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner, which provides an overview of what is considered a ‘document’ under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic). It is available at https://ovic.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploa...

It states:

"The definition of a document

The definition of ‘document’ in section 5 is broad and captures essentially all information in any form.

Examples of documents include: emails, diary and calendar entries, SMS and WhatsApp messages, CCTV footage, policy guides or manuals, letters, handwritten notes, file notes, sticky notes, files, photographs, telephone call or interview recordings and voice messages."

I note the specific mention of files, which I assume is the form in which the complete preference data is currently stored at the VEC.

Yours sincerely,

Vanessa Teague

Anika Clynick, Victorian Electoral Commission

OFFICIAL

Dear Dr Teague,

Thank you for your clarification regarding your request. Unfortunately, while the definition of document is broad, the right in the FOI Act as set out in section 3 is to access information in documentary form. As a result, I have interpreted your email to be that you seek:

“a report produced from the data file of the complete set of votes cast in the Northwest Ward in the Moreland local government election held on Saturday, 24 October 2020, where the data files include the complete preference written by the voter on that ballot.”

Could you please confirm by return email that my understanding is correct? Once I have received your confirmation, then we will be able to commence processing your request. If my understanding is incorrect, could you please provide further information about the document that you seek to access?

Yours sincerely,

Anika Clynick
Manager, Information Protection

If you receive this email outside business hours, I am doing so at a time that works for me.
Please read and respond at a time that works for you.

Level 11, 530 Collins Street Melbourne Victoria 3000
T 03 8620 1262

[email address]
vec.vic.gov.au

@electionsvic
The VEC acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land.

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

Dear Anika Clynick,

No, I did not request "a report produced from the data file," which is already available.

I request the complete preference data itself, which - as a file - I believe to be a document for the purposes of FoI, given the OVIC guidelines I quoted above.

Yours sincerely,

Vanessa Teague

Anika Clynick, Victorian Electoral Commission

OFFICIAL

Dear Dr Teague,

Thank you for your email of 31 January 2021 clarifying that you seek access to “a document that contains all the data in the preference data file for votes cast in the Northwest Ward in the Moreland local government election held on Saturday, 24 October 2020” under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) (Act).

The VEC will respond to your request as soon as practicable and in any event within 30 days of the date that your request became valid. That is, by no later than 2 March 2021.

In the meantime, if you have any queries, please contact me.

Anika Clynick
Manager, Information Protection

If you receive this email outside business hours, I am doing so at a time that works for me.
Please read and respond at a time that works for you.

Level 11, 530 Collins Street Melbourne Victoria 3000 T 03 8620 1262

[email address]
vec.vic.gov.au

@electionsvic
The VEC acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land.

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

Anika Clynick, Victorian Electoral Commission

5 Attachments

OFFICIAL

Dear Dr Teague,

 

Please find attached the decision letter in relation to the request you
submitted to the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) on 17 December 2020
under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

 

If you have any further enquiries in relation to your request, please
contact me.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

[1]Victorian Electoral Commission

Anika Clynick
Manager, Information Protection

 

If you receive this email outside business hours, I am doing so at a time
that works for me.

Please read and respond at a time that works for you.

Level 11, 530 Collins Street Melbourne Victoria 3000
[2][email address]
[3]vec.vic.gov.au

[4]facebook[5]VEC_SOCIAL-LOGO---twitter[6]instagram
@electionsvic

The VEC acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land.

 

OFFICIAL

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. https://www.vec.vic.gov.au/
2. mailto:[email address]
3. http://vec.vic.gov.au/
4. https://www.facebook.com/electionsvic
5. https://twitter.com/electionsvic
6. https://www.instagram.com/electionsvic/