The Australian Electoral Commission's attack on Informal's name
an epistolary account

1: from Graham Hyde, Divisional Returning Officer for Denison, to Informal
2: from Informal to Graham Hyde

Letter 1: from Graham Hyde to Informal

[addressed to the name Informal last used in January 1992]

Dear Mr [former surname]


I am writing to advise you that I have removed the name, Informal, from the Commonwealth Electoral Roll and replaced it with the name under which you were previously enrolled, [former name], because I consider the name Informal to be inappropriate. I have taken this action in accordance with the transitional provisions of the recently enacted Electoral and Referendum Amendment Act (No. 1) 2001 (the Amendment Act).

The Amendment Act was proclaimed on 16 July 2001 and amends the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Act) by inserting new sections 93A and 98A. These sections empower a Divisional Returning Officer (DRO), or an Australian Electoral Officer (AEO), to refuse to include in the Roll names that they consider to be inappropriate. Names that may be considered to be inappropriate include those that are:

  •  fictitious, frivolous, offensive or obscene; or
  •  not the name by which the person is usually known; or
  •  not written in the alphabet used for the English language.

A Divisional Returning Officer or Australian Electoral Officer may also refuse to include a person's name in a Roll if including the name in the Roll would be contrary to the public interest.

These new provisions were inserted into the Act because there has been an increasing tendency towards people using names which have electoral and political, and in some cases commercial, significance for enrolment and nomination. The placement of enrolled electors on the electoral roll or candidates names on ballot papers, was never intended to give electors or candidates free publicity for the particular cause they espouse or business that they run. This is more appropriately done through advertising or the distribution of how-to-vote material.

The new provisions allow for the refusal of names which are designed to confuse the public, such as those using the word independent or the name of another organisation or body. DROs and AEOs now also have the discretion to determine whether allowing an elector to enrol under a particular name would be contrary to the public interest.

The transitional provisions of the Amendment Act further provide that where a name has been included on a Roll prior to the date of effect of the above amendments, that is prior to 16 July 2001, and the person so enrolled has previously been enrolled under another name, the DRO or AEO may remove the name from the Roll and replace it with the name under which the person was previously enrolled. It is under this provision that I have taken the action of removing your name from the Roll.

I consider the name Informal to be frivolous or contrary to the public interest and therefore to be inappropriate.

If you do not agree with this decision, you have a right to request that I refer the matter to the Australian Electoral Officer for Tasmania for review. Such a request must be made in writing within 28 days from the date of this letter and sent to me at the above address.

Yours sincerely,


Graham Hyde
Divisional Returning Officer
for Denison

12 October, 2001

Letter 2: from Informal to Graham Hyde

Greetings from Informal

  I refer to the letter which you sent to me on 12 October (which I accidentally though fortuitously opened ere I noticed its erroneous address) titled "your enrolled name" (Ref. No: D7).
  I Ūnd it remarkable that a public servant should Ūnd it necessary to address a private citizen---one who is accused of having committed no wrongdoing---deliberately by a name which is known to be incorrect; furthermore, I hope that you henceforth note that I shall not heed any further correspondence which is similarly ill-addressed: I will, instead, take it very ill, as I should hope that no citizen ought to accept deliberate contumely from a government ofŪcial. Please note, then, that if you address me wrongly again I shall perforce feel obligated to address you wrongly.
  In your letter you state that you have removed my name from the electoral roll, and arrogantly and arbitrarily replaced it with an incorrect name, because you consider my legal name "to be frivolous or contrary to the public interest and therefore to be inappropriate" I do not agree with this assessment and, since you state that I have "the right to refer the matter to the Australian Electoral OfŪcer for Tasmania for review," I hereby request that you do so refer the matter.
  I do not consider my name to be frivolous, nor do I see how it can be contrary to the public interest. I do recognise that the Act under which you make this bizarre assessment is itself frivolous and contrary to the public interest. I should have thought that in the supposedly democratic system of voting which our parliaments have in their wisdom imposed on us that the totality of electors is sovereign and that the voter should have the Ūnal say on whether any candidacy ought to be considered frivolous. As for an enrolled voter's name causing any concern to any other voter, I must suppose that you expect the following scene to occur---I base my dialogue on past events:

[At a polling booth.]
Electoral OfŪcial:Your name?
Informal:Informal. I, n, f, o, r, m, a, l: Informal. 6 Allambee Crescent, Glebe.
E.Off:Informal? Is that your name?
Informal:It is; hence my saying so.
E.Off: Ah, here it is, "Informal." It is your name.
Informal:[Silently assents.]
E.Off:[Hands over appropriate papers.] Here you are.
Informal:Thank you.
E.Off:[Addresses next voter.] Your name?
Next voter:I don't know, I'm confused. What was that man's name, again? Oh no, I think that I am unable to cast a valid vote, for I'll somehow mark my papers inappropriately and thus fail to make my preferences clear, subsequently leading to the overthrow of our democratic freedoms and the proper management of orderly government institutions. [Swoons.]
E.Off:Medic! Oh, curse that frivolously named man. Medic!

  Anyway, I shall, next week, send by e-mail a more detailed response to your letter, and I should be grateful if you would send further messages to my e-mail address, which is:
  I shall also place copies of this and further correspondence on my website after next week at:
  As for this Saturday's election, I shall not give my former name to any ofŪcial because it is not now my legal name and because I pledged that I should forsake its use when I Ūrst registered my change of name by deed poll.



7 November 2001

edited by Informal
last updated, 9 November, 2001

Words within square brackets (except when they mark directions within a dialogue) mark editorial matter.