As our readers will be aware, the 42nd Australian Parliament was prorogued and the House of Representatives dissolved at 5pm on Monday, 19 July 2010 and writs issued for a general election, which was held on Saturday, 21 August 2010. In accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) (the Act), the Electoral Commissioner was prevented from considering claims for enrolment or transfer of enrolment lodged after 8pm on 19 July 2010 until after the close of polling.
On 26 July 2010, proceedings were commenced in the Melbourne Registry of the High Court by Shannen Alyce Rowe and Douglas Stewart Thompson seeking a declaration that those provisions of the Act effecting cut-off dates for consideration of applications for enrolment and transfers of enrolment as an elector were invalid (Rowe & Anor v Electoral Commissioner & Anor, No M101 of 2010). The provisions under challenge were introduced into the Act by the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Act 2006 (Cth).
The proceeding was referred to the Full Court by Justice Hayne on 29 July 2010 and argument on the application was heard on an expedited basis by the Full Court on 4 and 5 August 2010. On 6 August 2010, the High Court declared that the provisions under challenge were invalid.
Following the decision, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) issued a statement acknowledging that the decision allowed additional eligible voters to be entitled to vote in the general election. The claims of voters who had submitted correctly completed claims for enrolment after 8pm on Monday, 19 July 2010 but before 8pm on Monday, 26 July 2010 were processed by the AEC to enable those voters to vote in the general election.
At the time of finalising this edition, the High Court was yet to hand down its reasons for decision. We will provide a further update on those reasons in our forthcoming edition.