Almost 11,000 people did not vote during the Gladstone Regional Council by-election in November.
Almost 11,000 people did not vote during the Gladstone Regional Council by-election in November. Brett Wortman

Why ECQ waived non-voter fines from council by-election

FINES of up to $130 have been waived for thousands of Gladstone residents who failed to vote at the 2018 council by-election.

Electoral Commission Queensland has sent letters to some Gladstone residents advising they would not be fined for not voting during the Gladstone Regional Council by-election in November 2018.

An ECQ spokeswoman said fines were not issued for any local government by-elections in Queensland last year, in a bid to send a message to non-voters in the lead-up to other major elections.

It comes as the May 18 federal election looms, and ahead of next year's Queensland and local government elections.

"With major elections looming, the ECQ opted to remind Queenslanders who failed to vote at a recent election that voting is compulsory and a failure to do so in the future may result in a fine," she said.

The fine for not voting in a by-election is $65.30 (half penalty unit) if it is paid by the due date. After that the penalty increases to $130.55.

The by-election was won by Natalia Muszkat and was held following the resignation of Cindi Bush.

Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett said he was pleased residents were not fined for not voting.

By-elections traditionally have a lower voter turnout, and that showed in November last year, with almost 11,000 people failing to head to the booths.

Of the 40,384 people on the electoral roll for the by-election, just 29,416 voted.

"The by-election was not advertised well, so a lot of people in the community didn't know it was on," Cr Burnett said.

"At the time the Gladstone community was doing it tough too, so I thought fining poeple who couldn't afford it was unfair."

Cr Burnett said it was unique for ECQ to waive a fee for not voting.

He urged residents to vote at the upcoming federal election.