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Senior election official queries access to voter rolls

Senior electoral commission officials have sounded the alarm on candidates in last year's federal election having access to voters' personal information

Speaking before a parliamentary inquiry into the federal election, Australian Electoral Commission's deputy commissioner Jeff Pope said he was concerned about certain independent candidates being able to view the electoral roll.

Candidates running for parliament are provided a copy of the electoral roll for campaigning purposes, but the deputy commissioner said he was worried about voter information being handed over to particular people.

"There are a couple of independents at the last election that I lose sleep over having access to the electoral roll, and you have to just look at some of their backgrounds and their intent for participating in the election," Mr Pope told the inquiry.

"What is known about them publicly, with respect to past activities, it does worry me."

Mr Pope stressed the concerns were about individuals and not independent candidates as a whole.

"Independents enrich our political process, but we're just seeing a change in the environment in which we are all operating in, you as candidates and us as electoral administrators, and there's some concerns there that worry me."

The inquiry was examining access to the electoral roll and whether allowing access to third parties needed to be tightened.

Mr Pope said the use of the electoral roll was vastly different to what it was when rules were set up by parliament decades earlier.

"There are some people out there that are abusing that privilege of being able to access that information, which is well outside the intent of what parliament had in mind," he said.

Electoral commissioner Tom Rogers said while political parties had access to the electoral roll, they may need more funding to ensure party systems were secure.

"There's a very genuine requirement for parties to have that data, and I get that, but that doesn't mean that we should abrogate the normal sort of security measures that you would hope to see in place," he said.

"We're concerned on behalf of the public to make sure that we're all comfortable that the processes that were in place of us providing that data are still relevant, and still meet modern standards of the community."