Election workers may need COVID-19 vaccine

Electoral commissioner Tom Rogers has taken advice on vaccine mandates for poll workers.
Electoral commissioner Tom Rogers has taken advice on vaccine mandates for poll workers.

The elections watchdog is weighing up whether to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for the 100,000-strong temporary workforce needed for the next federal poll.

Electoral commissioner Tom Rogers said there would be a strong focus on making the election - which is due by May 2022 - as COVID-safe as possible.

"I've sought legal advice on that matter," he said, of making vaccination status an employment condition.

He said a policy decision was expected within weeks, but he was conscious there were varied views on mandatory vaccination.

While the decision of an election date lies in the hands of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the commissioner has met with the nation's most senior health officials.

The AEC has written to every state chief health officer seeking advice.

Police commissioners are also being asked for input, including on managing queues outside polling booths.

Deakin University is conducting research on how to ensure COVID-safe measures do not lengthen the time it takes to cast a ballot.

The AEC has also consulted Canadian officials on how their recent national elections were conducted in the middle of a pandemic.

Mr Rogers said he would like there to be a standard model of how the 7000 polling stations operate around the country in terms of health measures but he was "sensitive" to various rules.

The AEC does not have the power to override state health regulations.

But the commissioner said once an election writ was issued by the governor-general, he was required to run an election.

"That is going to be happening this electoral cycle regardless of what is happening in any of the states," Mr Rogers told a Senate estimates hearing.

How-to-vote card handing out will be allowed outside booths, unlike during the upcoming NSW local government election.

Australian Associated Press