We went down to vote this morning; it’s a nice walk of about a kilometre along our street and through a park replete with gum trees, wattle trees, casuarinas, magpies, peewees and galahs, as well as a few neighbours who were also going to vote.
We masked up just as we arrived at the polling station (a community hall) but there was no sausage sizzle (Bugger! I was looking forward to a snag and caramelised onion on fresh bread). On a brighter note, the queue outside the venue was only a couple of people long. So, between arrival and putting pencil to paper would have only been about 10 minutes. Covid-19 has changed things in that almost everyone was masked up, and the pencils were handed out at the door, rather than dangling on a string at the booth. After putting the voting papers in the ballot boxes (one for the House of Representatives, and one for the Senate), we handed the pencils back.
Just before we got to the queue, a poor benighted Liberal volunteer tried to hand my partner a Liberal Party How-To-Vote (HTV) card, to which my partner replied “No Way!” very emphatically. Then the poor bugger tried to hand me one and I replied: “No thanks; I could never vote for a criminal enterprise”. At this, a person nearby handing out Greens HTV cards, burst out laughing.
After voting, we walked to the shopping centre and got some curry samosas for lunch. As we were walking back past the polling station we had to run the gauntlet of HTV volunteers again and a young woman was handing out Senate HTV cards for the religious nutter, Liberal senator Zed Seselja1. Fortunately (for her), she didn’t approach us, but tried to give her HTV to a bloke near us. He simply replied “What’s so good about Zed?” We laughed and walked on.
A friend of ours tested positive to Covid-19 earlier in the week and had to isolate. She was initially told that she was too late to apply for a postal vote, and could not vote over the telephone because of various timing rules imposed on the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) by a recently issued government regulation. This disenfranchisement apparently happened to many people. I kicked up a stink on Twitter, on behalf of our friend, and numerous others did the same, presumably on behalf of their relatives and friends.
Dr Monique Ryan, who is running against the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg for the seat of Kooyong, lodged an application in the federal court challenging the legality of a regulation after the AEC conceded that this anomaly meant possibly over 200,000 people who were in isolation may not be able to vote in today’s election. On Thursday evening, Ryan claimed the disenfranchisement of voters “is the result of a decision by the Morrison government” and said the legal action would be brought against government MP Ben Morton, who is responsible for electoral oversight in his capacity as special minister of state2.
This anomaly meant that these people, if they tested positive for Covid-19 at 6.01 pm on Tuesday, would be able to vote by phone, while those who tested positive for Covid-19 two minutes earlier at 5.59pm, would not be able to vote by phone, and would not get to vote at all. Ryan maintained that the solution was clear and that was “the right to vote by phone should be extended to every Australian who is Covid-positive”. She also added: “The Morrison government has had two years to prepare for an election where we knew people would be Covid positive. This is serious ineptitude resulting in the disenfranchisement of up to 1% of the electorate. This could be enough to change the result in many seats”2.
While some were concerned that this was a Morrison government subterfuge to disenfranchise those who have realised that the pandemic is not over, the Morrison government’s propensity to bugger things up monumentally is a more likely explanation, and that proved to be the case. The AEC recommended to the government that the problem be fixed to allow anyone who tested positive after 6pm last Friday to use telephone voting. Morrison confirmed eligibility for telephone voting would be expanded to prevent disenfranchisement3.
Now we just sit with bated breath and wait for the outcome of this election. Tonight will be takeaways and some decent plonk to help us cope.