The letters page of The Age includes a lot of criticism of the manning levels, long queues and generally long time taken to vote.

My mother has worked as an electoral officer for the past four years, but for unrelated reasons didn’t sign up this year. She did however run into the chap that has run the local voting booth all that time, and stood with him observing the scene. He was able to offer some explanation.

Apparently this year an effort was made to hire people with “language skills”. But as he noted, this had come at the expense of the skills required to process people efficiently at a voting booth.

There are other problems with this as well generally invisible to the powers that be.

Firstly “language skills” is a vague description, it generally means that a person is a native speaker of the language spoken by a significant proportion of local residents, who may otherwise lack English proficiency.

It is completely different from proficiency in translation and is no guarantee whatsoever of their being able to perform the duties in that language that they would otherwise be required to in English.

It is also likely to lead to inequitable treatment of some language communities as it is notoriously difficult to predict or manage the very wide spread of languages found in various parts of Australia.