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Fines for ACT non-voters should be raised, more space needed for 2020 polling day: Auditor-General

Voters in the ACT could be forced to pay a $150 fine if they fail to cast their ballot at the next election, if the territory government raises fines for the offence to the full penalty possible.

Auditor-General Maxine Cooper on Thursday released her audit of the 2016 ACT election, finding overall that the "planning and conduct" of the poll was "effective".

But the audit also revealed the lack of ACT Government-owned space in key town centres and Civic meant space for polling places needed to be booked at least two years before the 2020.

The audit showed that ACT Property Group has told Elections ACT that "providing accommodation for the 2020 election is likely to be more problematic", with Dr Cooper urging the elections agency to book accommodation for the next election by 2018.

"If this does not occur, Elections ACT should seek assistances from the Head of Service," she wrote.

It also showed that security guards had to be called in to guard ballot papers overnight during the October election, as a lack of space in the central "secure room" where ballot papers were meant to be stored resulted in papers being held outside the room, in locked plastic boxes and guarded overnight.

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Despite a voter turn-out meeting the 88 per cent target for the 2016 poll, Dr Cooper has also urged that fines for not voting - currently sitting at $20 a person - be raised and use the ACT's current legislated penalty unit as the basis for future fines.

While Dr Cooper's report did not specify that the full penalty unit of $150 per person should be charged to non-voters, the report left the specific amount that could be charged up to the government in acting on the recommendation.

"The $20 fine for non-voters has not been changed since it was introduced and is small compared to some other Australian jurisdictions," she said.

"It needs to be linked to penalty units to increase in line with other ACT fines linked to penalty units."

After a record number of residents cast pre-poll votes in 2016 - some 34 per cent - Dr Cooper also recommended the government change elections laws so people did not have to justify that they would be "unable to attend a polling place on polling day".

She wrote that many reasons could be given to justify their inability to attend on polling day, but that "given the breadth of interpretation possible", it "makes it impractical to enforce" by elections staff.

Dr Cooper also urged Elections ACT to recruit a training manager for the lead up to the next election, after the agency, despite several efforts failed to recruit a manager to train some 767 casual staff who worked during the election last year.

That failure to recruit a manager in 2016 meant that three of the nine Elections ACT staff were forced to deliver 43 hours of face-to-face training in the busy 10-day period leading up the actual election.