Regional communities are concerned they will have to travel for hours to cast their vote on Saturday, as the Australian Electoral Commission makes a last-ditch effort to fill staffing gaps so polling places can open.
The administration of this year’s election has been hampered by labour shortages, which have been compounded by further staffing shortages due to Covid, with 90 workers calling in sick with the virus within 24 hours in Hobart.
The AEC said in the past day more than 5,000 people had signed up to work on polling day in the electorates in Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland that were facing staff shortages.
“The new registrations mean some of the locations we identified yesterday are no longer of critical concern but others are still falling short and, given the current environment, there could be new areas of concern arise,” digital engagement director at AEC Evan Ekin-Smyth said.
“However, the impact will be limited. We will have the absolute vast majority of the 7,000 polling places we operate across the nation on election day open and operating as per usual.”
The AEC said it was doing everything it could to ensure every polling place was staffed on Saturday, including approaching the Australian defence force to enlist the help of the reserves, police and emergency services personnel.