The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is on the defensive denying it is part of a process to rig the referendum in favour of a yes vote. Unlike the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Marriage Postal Law Survey in 2017 where there was a Yes and No box in the Aboriginal Voice referendum, there is only one box where you either write Yes or No in English.
But the Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers told Sky News that a tick in the box will likely still be counted as a yes vote but a cross be deemed an informal vote.
Media advice: Referendum voting instructions
— AEC ✏️ (@AusElectoralCom) August 25, 2023
The AEC claims it is just following longstanding legal advice regarding the use of ticks and crosses and the decades-long and multi-referendum history of the application of that law and advice under the ‘savings provisions’ of Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 which include the ability to count a vote where the instructions have not been followed but the voter’s intention is clear.
The ABC’s Election Analyst Antony Green claims the reason why there is only one box in referendums is because of a high level of informal voting at a 1991 New South Wales referendum which was held at the same as the state election.
1. Below is the two-box referendum ballot paper used at a NSW referendum held in conjunction with the 1991 state election. It caused such an increase in informal voting at the general election that the Commonwealth one-box format is now used. #auspol #referendum2023 .. pic.twitter.com/8BbhPJZyzX
— Antony Green – elections (@AntonyGreenElec) August 24, 2023
But this NSW referendum was 32 years ago with the last Australian Constitutional referendum being on the Republic in 1999. No one under 40 in Australia has voted in an Australian referendum before but a majority would have voted in the Marriage Law Survey 6 years ago, the closest thing to a referendum process they have taken part in. For the AEC to drop this bombshell on the people of Australia less than 2 months before the likely referendum day is already leading to mass confusion.
The AEC claims its communications on how to cast a valid vote will be clear to voters during the referendum campaign but so far all it has done is cause confusion. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said on 2GB if a tick counts for ‘yes’, then a cross should count for ‘no’ – it’s as clear as that. Otherwise, it gives a very, very strong advantage to the ‘yes’ case’.
Peter Dutton said there is still time to fix this confusion before referendum day ‘If legislation is required to clarify this, then we’ve got plenty of time. Parliament’s back the week after next and we would support a sensible bill to clarify it, that the Prime Minister can draft up’. Dutton will write to the Electoral Commissioner asking him to release the legal advice about ticks and crosses.
But Anthony Albanese won’t pass legislation to have a yes and no box like the Australian people are familiar with like the Marriage Law Postal Survey. They would much rather just accuse Dutton of doing a Trump and undermining the democratic process and just hide behind precedents from the last century and statements from the AEC indirectly claiming Dutton’s objections are based on emotion.
What a disingenuous negative rabble!
The LNP accepted the voting process in the legislation and did not raise any issues.
Doing a Trump and trying to undermine the vote and democratic processes.
Not just a rabble but an incompetent rabble!
— Doug Cameron (@DougCameron51) August 25, 2023