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Early voting to be cut back under proposed electoral reforms

Voters will have no more than 12 days to cast their ballot ahead of the next election as part of a suite of new measures to modernise electoral processes, improve services and grow confidence in the democratic system.

The federal government introduced its planned overhaul, which includes making it easier for overseas voters to comply with witnessing requirements and increasing the number of scrutineers for computerised Senate counting, to Parliament on Thursday.

Several parliamentary inquiries in the past decade have recommended pre-poll voting be restricted to no more than two weeks before an election.

Several parliamentary inquiries in the past decade have recommended pre-poll voting be restricted to no more than two weeks before an election.Credit:Cole Bennetts

Measures would also be introduced to guard against rare instances of multiple voting while penalties would be strengthened for interfering with a person’s political liberty, including through violence, abuse, property damage, harassment or stalking relating to an election.

A Coalition-dominated inquiry into the 2019 federal election made 27 recommendations last year on voting rules, electronic voting, campaign finance, the size of Parliament and four-year terms. Labor members on the committee tabled a dissenting report.

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Among the more contentious changes the government wants is increased transparency for activist and lobby groups.

The proposed laws would reduce the amount an individual or organisation could spend on electoral matters before they were required to register as a political campaigner to $100,000, from the current $500,000, during the financial year of a poll or in any of the previous three financial years. They would also need to register if their electoral expenditure during the financial year was at least equal to the current disclosure threshold of $14,500 and at least one-third of their revenue for the previous financial year.

Assistant Minister for Electoral Matters Ben Morton said the amendments did not represent a significant change for people or entities who met the updated thresholds.

“Those affected by this amendment are either already required to submit a return as a third-party campaigner or would be required to do so if they incurred such expenditure at a future electoral event,” he said.

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