Record Postal Voting Numbers May Delay Australian Referendum Outcome

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The upcoming Voice to Parliament referendum results may remain obscure to Australians for potentially days or even weeks following October 14. This delay is due to an unprecedented number of citizens projected to cast their ballots through mail.

The Australian Electoral Commissioner, Tom Rogers, announced on Thursday that the electoral roll has swollen beyond ever before, with approximately 1.2 million Australians registered for postal vote applications. This figure represents roughly 200,000 more applications compared to those recorded before the May 2022 federal elections.

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Despite the postal service being required to accept returned votes by October 14, the high utilization of this voting method, combined with pre-polling chances, raises the likelihood of a protracted period to tally the ballots. If the recent federal elections in May 2022 offer any indicator, just over half the voting populace logged their votes either via mail or early at the pre-poll, a trend which looks set to repeat itself, if not exceed, in the coming referendum.

The expected delay in the vote count is attributable in part to the time it may take to tally returned postal votes. Given the current count of 1.2 million of these votes, it may be necessary to pause for the postal return before a clear cut outcome can emerge as per the law’s permissible 13-day wait period.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese championing the Yes vote outcome, encourages Australian citizens to imagine their euphoria should it pass on October 15. The Prime Minister’s itinerary includes a United States visit on October 23.

Rogers underscored an exciting development; Australia’s electoral roll has hit the apex since the inception of the federation, boasting 97.7 per cent registration of eligible Australians, amounting to 17,676,347 individuals. In particular, the roll captures a historical best with 91.4 per cent of 18-24-year-olds and 94.1 per cent of the Indigenous population registered.

In another groundbreaking endeavor to empower democracy, mobile polling for the remote extremities of Australia will launch on the following Monday. This operation, undeniably the most intricate and logistically demanding in history, will see AEC teams traverse remote locales across every state and the Northern Territory in the ensuing three weeks. Expedited transit arrangements via planes, helicopters, and boats are underway to extend the accessibility of voting to the remotest Australians.

Deputy Commissioner Jeff Pope expressed that the operation constitutes the highest service offering to outlying Australian communities to date. Additionally, Rogers pledged the AEC’s commitment to robust contingency planning as a precaution against the early bushfire season. Australians have been advised to pre-arrange their voting plan, given that the May 2022 provision to enable phone voting for Covid-19 quarantined citizens has now lapsed.

Of note, the only Australians eligible for phone voting are visually impaired individuals and Antarctic residents. Over 500 early voting centres will be operational nationwide, with an additional 7000 voting booths opening on October 14. Postal vote application remains open up until 6 pm on October 11.

Rogers highlighted a prevalent issue of misinformation and barriers the electoral commission faces, describing them as absurd conspiracy theories. To counteract this, the commission is actively disseminating fact-based information and has instituted measures for tackling online misinformation swiftly. Plans include ensuring any individual or group spreading inaccuracies about the process will be addressed and the data added to a misinformation register.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.