Footage of election officers being accosted has circulated online ahead of a vote in Australia's New South Wales (NSW) state alongside a false claim they were "illegally" handling ballot boxes. However, the state poll body and an Australian politics professor separately told AFP that state election law allows the movement of ballot boxes shown in the video.

"BUSTED!!! This is election fraud!!" reads part of the caption to the video shared on Facebook on March 23, 2023.

The video shows ballot boxes being moved to a car by men wearing shirts that say, "NSW Electoral Commission".

A woman off-camera can be heard confronting the men and accusing them of illegally moving the ballots.

"This just happened in the Maitland area of NSW!! It is illegal to remove ballots before 5pm election night!!" the post claims. "Take your power back folks, and demand a police investigation!"

The video circulated as early voting began in the state for eligible voters, including those who were unable to get to a voting centre on election day on March 25.

It was filmed at an early voting site in the city of Maitland.


A screenshot of the false Facebook post taken on March 24, 2023.

The election was a resounding defeat for the Liberal-National Coalition government and a clear victory for Labor, the Guardian reported.

A similar false claim about the video was also shared on Facebook here and here; on Twitter by Australian politician Craig Kelly; and on Telegram.

'Usual practice'

The New South Wales Electoral Commission (NSWEC), which conducts and regulates elections in the state, refuted the claim that "election officials move ballot boxes before election day to hide/destroy them" on its website.

"It is usual practice for full ballot boxes to be moved during the early voting period to the Election Manager's office, for secure storage when an early voting centre has taken a large amount of votes," it said.

"This relocation of boxes is permitted and there are processes in place to ensure there is a robust audit trail of the ballot box movements."

The election body said all ballot boxes are sealed before election officials record their identification numbers.

The NSWEC also addressed the claim on Twitter on March 23 with the same statement.

Professor Rodney Smith, an expert on Australian politics and elections at the University of Sydney, told AFP the movement of pre-poll ballot papers is permitted under section 115 of the NSW Electoral Act 2017.

"This movement does not in itself compromise electoral integrity," he said on March 27.

"In some circumstances, it may reduce the (very remote) possibility of integrity breaches if, for some reason, transporting the increasingly large number of pre-poll ballots to a counting centre after 6pm on the Friday before polling day is likely to prove difficult."