Electoral Offences (NT)

The NT Criminal Code Act 1983 contains a number of offences relating to elections and politics. These include bribery, undue influence and interfering with political liberty. The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1928 also contains offences related to elections such as failing to vote. This article outlines the offences that a person in the NT can be charged with under both those acts and the penalties that these electoral offences carry.

Undue influence

Section 87 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to use or threaten to use force or restraint, or to cause or threaten any detriment to a voter in order to induce them to vote in a particular way or to refrain from voting at an election, or to prevent or obstruct a person from voting or from voting in a particular way.

This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of imprisonment for three years.  

Bribery

Section 88 makes it an offence to:

  • give, promise or offer a person any benefit for anything done or not done by a voter at an election;
  • ask receive or obtain a benefit for anything done or not done by a voter during an election;
  • ask receive or obtain a benefit for a promise made to procure the return of a person or the vote of a person at an election;
  • pay money to a person to be used to do any of the above.

Bribery carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment.

Further penalty

A person found guilty of bribery or undue influence is not allowed to do certain things for a period of three years after the finding of guilt.

If the offence is committed in relation to an election of the legislative assembly:

  • hold judicial office;
  • vote in such an election;
  • being elected to the legislative assembly;

If the offence is committed in relation to a local government election, the person is not allowed to hold any local government office for a period of three years.

Illegal practices

Section 90 makes it an offence to engage in illegal practices. This is punishable by imprisonment for up to three years.

A person engages in illegal practices if they:

  • vote in an election knowing they are prohibited at law from voting in that election;
  • procure a person who is prohibited from voting in an election to vote;
  • knowingly publish a false statement about the withdrawal of a candidate in order to procure the choice of a candidate or the return of a candidate;
  • withdraw from their candidacy in an election for payment or procures someone else to do so.

False ballot papers

Section 91 makes it an offence to place a ballot paper that has not been lawfully handed to a voter in a ballot box. This is punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.

Interfering with political liberty

Under section 71, it is an offence to interfere with political liberty.  This offence carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment, or three years if the offender is a public officer and commits the offence in abuse of their authority.

Interfering with political liberty is defined as using violence, threats or intimidation of any kind to hinder or interfere with the free exercise of a political right by another person.  

Commonwealth offences

A person in the NT can also be charged with offences under the Electoral Act. These include failing to vote, voting more than once and impersonating a person.

Failing to vote

Section 245 of the Electoral Act makes it an offence for a person who is enrolled to vote to fail to vote in an election. If a person who is enrolled to vote cannot provide a sufficient reason for failing to vote at a federal election, they may be fined $20 or may elect to have the matter dealt with by a court.

Voting more than once

Section 339 of the Electoral Act makes it an offence to vote in an election more than once. A person can be fined up to 10 penalty units for this offence. If the person committed the offence intentionally, they may also be imprisoned for up to 12 months.

Impersonating a person

Section 330 of the Electoral Act makes it an offence to impersonate a person in order to secure a ballot paper, vote in another person’s name, destroy ballot papers, fraudulently remove ballot papers from a polling booth, or supply ballot papers without authority.

This offence is punishable by up to six months imprisonment.

The Electoral Act also contains offences of bribery and interfering with political liberty, equivalent to those under the NT Criminal Code, as well as other offences.

If you require advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

Author

Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection, domestic violence and family law in the Northern Territory and Queensland.
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