Rural voters left scratching heads at polling options

Rural voters urged to telephone vote as other options fail to materialise

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With the voting difficulties of the March local government elections still fresh in the minds of rural Queenslanders, news that far western communities weren't advised that they wouldn't have a polling booth to vote in person at on the day, and that individuals hadn't received postal votes, is cranking up a new wave of anger.

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Nothing but junk mail and a rock to weigh it down - Kylie Stretton's mailbox failed to yield up her much-hoped-for postal vote until Friday morning.

Nothing but junk mail and a rock to weigh it down - Kylie Stretton's mailbox failed to yield up her much-hoped-for postal vote until Friday morning.

With the voting difficulties of the March local government elections still fresh in the minds of rural Queenslanders, news that far western communities weren't advised that they wouldn't have a polling booth to vote in person at on the day, and that individuals hadn't received postal votes, is cranking up a new wave of anger in the bush.

Among those are people in far western communities in Barcoo and Diamantina shires, who had no way of knowing in advance that there would be no in-person polling booth in their towns this time around.

This meant they weren't aware they should apply for a postal vote until it was too late.

One of those is Diamantina Shire mayor Robbie Dare, who said his voting information slip, advising that applications for a postal vote would close on October 16, arrived in his mail at Bedourie a week later on October 23.

"And there was no information about telephone voting on the card," Cr Dare said.

"People here will either have to drive 200km one way to Boulia to cast their vote or vote by phone.

"No-one's complained to me as mayor but I can see it could be a problem.

"We would have liked to have had more information."

Related: Qld local government election results may be slow

Gregory MP Lachlan Millar reported similar circumstances in towns in the Barcoo shire, as well as no pre-poll option for Barcaldine or Winton.

"I rang ECQ about it and their advice was that if you're from those towns and you need to vote early, then Longreach, Aramac and Blackall are your centres," he said.

ECQ also advised that Barcaldine voters could cast an early vote at Emerald or Blackwater, 310km and 385km away respectively.

While Mr Millar said both Winton and Barcaldine should have the option of pre-polling, EQC said neither community had it in the 2017 state election.

A spokeswoman also said there were more early voting centres in Queensland this time around, 200 of them, compared to 167 in 2017 but didn't specify where the extra centres were located.

Meanwhile, in the Warrego electorate MP Ann Leahy expressed similar concern for voters in Mungindi and Dirranbandi.

While the latter had pre-polling, neither will have a booth open on voting day, and Ms Leahy said the short notice made it difficult for people who were expecting to drive to town to vote on Saturday.

"The next town on is Thallon, half an hour away," she said. "There's been no advice on this from ECQ and no attempt that I'm aware of to give advice."

She was told the reason there would be no polling booth open on Saturday in either town was because staff couldn't be found to open them.

ECQ didn't offer an explanation for that but Ms Leahy wondered if the lack of print newspaper advertising meant people didn't see that jobs were available.

Postal voters on tenterhooks

Kylie Stretton is a regular postal voter but has never had to wait so long for her ballot paper to arrive.

Kylie Stretton is a regular postal voter but has never had to wait so long for her ballot paper to arrive.

The postal voting situation appears to be just as fraught with concern for voters, among them Charters Towers grazier Kylie Stretton.

A regular postal voter since the 2007 federal election, Ms Stretton said her papers often arrived in the nick of time but never as late as for this election.

Her ballot paper arrived in the mail on Friday morning and if she were to vote and put it back in the mailbox at the end of her drive, it may not be collected until next Friday.

Instead, she chose to telephone vote this week.

"If Australia Post couldn't cope with the volume of postal votes going out to people, I have no faith that they would get mine back within the 10-day cut-off period," she said.

"I'm really concerned about people who aren't savvy with the internet and who don't have a local paper for information anymore.

"I think we're going to have a lot who just won't vote - it's a real miscarriage."

Although EQC said issues about the delivery of postal votes needed to be addressed to Australia Post, Ms Stretton laid the blame equally at the feet of the mail carrier and EQC.

"Everyone had a practice run for the local government elections in March, you could excuse the problems then but the volume of postal votes now shouldn't be a surprise," she said.

"ECQ should have realised they were going to get smashed and perhaps timelines could be extended.

"This is yet another thing rural Australia is getting let down by and politicians don't seem to be trying to get it fixed."

An Australia Post spokesman said they were making sure postal ballots wee prioritised through its network to reach their destination by the required date.

All postal ballot packs were received from ECQ by October 22.

There are around 900,000 postal votes for this election, compared to 300,000 in 2017.

Postal votes can only been sent after the close of nominations, ballot paper order draw and printing of the ballot papers, and the timing is determined in the Electoral Act 1992.

The message from ECQ this week as concerns grew was that if voters live more than 20 kilometres from a polling booth and their postal ballots have not arrived, they can register to telephone vote instead.

Voters were urged not to leave it until the last minute on Saturday as phone lines could become congested.

Eligible voters can call the ECQ on 1300 912 782 until noon on election day, October 31, to register.

They will be asked to verify themselves on the electoral roll and eligibility will be checked.

On postal voting, Lachlan Millar told people on his social media page that even if people had applied for a postal vote they could still vote at a polling booth if they could get to one.

"Your name will be marked as having voted. Simply destroy the postal ballot, if and when it turns up. Voting twice is absolutely illegal," he said.

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