Voters going postal after electoral commission failure

ANGRY Gympie region voters have some choice words for Electoral Commission Queensland.

And an ECQ spokesman says the commission will listen, after a perfect storm of problems at this year's Gympie region mayoral by-election.

Voters and candidates agreed it was a Murphy's Law poll in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

ELECTORAL Commission Queensland this week notified nearly one in three Gympie region electors who may face fines for not voting in the region's first all-postal election.

"It was a stuff-up," candidate Reg Lawler said of the February by-election for mayor.

"But there was nothing anyone could have done."

Confusion over a new system that few understood was compounded by an overlap with the state election, which also had a postal vote option.

"The council couldn't help that and nor could the electoral commission," Mr Lawler said.

"The state government called a state election and the date for the Gympie Regional Council mayoral by-election had already been set," he said.

Another possible source of confusion was former deputy Mayor Tony Perrett's new role as a state election candidate.

Mayoral candidate George Groth thought this may have topped off the confusion.

Many voters may have identified him with the council, he said.

"Tony Perrett had moved from council to state and he put out postal ballot forms urging people to vote for him in the state election."

People could easily have voted for Mr Perrett and thought they had voted in the council poll," he said.

"I'm happy so far with the performance (of new mayor Mick Curran) but it will be interesting to see how many people get fined for not voting.

"There was a lot of confusion," Mr Groth said.

"A lot of people didn't send back (required) identification with their (council postal) vote, because they didn't want people to know how they voted," he said.

"They didn't understand the process (which involved tear-off identification tags, allowing electoral officials to cross their names off on the electoral roll before tearing off the tags and putting the votes anonymously in the ballot box)."

Gympie voter Mark Radley said: "I got bombarded with state election junk mail and I started to throw it all out. I didn't realise there was a council election as well."

Candidate Graham Engeman said he thought this confusion was common.

"There should be another election," Mr Radley said. "We didn't have our say."

Runner-up for mayor Ian Petersen did not like that idea. "I've had enough of elections," he said.

Of 33,490 voters on the roll, only 24,951 lodged a valid vote.