The electoral authority in Australia has come out fighting against critics who claim that counting clicks as a yes response in the impending vote on the voice will compromise the body’s fairness and impartiality.
On Friday, the Australian Electoral Commission released a statement in which it “completely and utterly” rejected the argument that it was behaving unfairly. The statement also suggested that the claims were “based on emotion rather than the reality of the law.”
No campaigners, including the leader of the opposition, Peter Dutton, have questioned the regulation that allows some ticks in addition to a “yes” or “no” on referendum ballot papers and suggested, without evidence, that the process is “rigged.” This comes as a surprise.
There will be one blank space on the voting paper for the Indigenous voice to parliament, and voters will be given explicit instructions to write either “Yes” or “No” in English in that space.
In the voice referendum on the republic in 1999, fewer than one percent of the votes that were recorded were informal ballots, and ballot papers including crosses and ticks formed only a minuscule part of those votes.
According to the AEC, a significant portion of the “intense commentary online and in mainstream media” was factually inaccurate and ignored the history of ticks and crosses, which spans several decades and has been the subject of multiple referendums.
In a statement, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) stated that it “completely and utterly rejects the suggestions by some that by transparently following the established, public and known legislative requirements, we are undermining the impartiality and fairness of the referendum.”
“Such has been the situation in every election that has taken place. The Australian Electoral Commission has not shifted its attention away from protecting the validity of votes.
“In fact, electoral integrity is a central part of the AEC’s published values; underpinned by, and supported through, complete adherence to all relevant laws and regulations,” the statement reads.
In an interview that took place on Wednesday with media, the electoral commissioner, Tom Rogers, stated that voters should write “yes” or “no” on the ballot. He also mentioned that well-established procedures, which are referred to as “savings provisions,” permitted AEC workers to tally votes that did not strictly comply to the instructions.
“There is a good chance that either a ‘Y’ or a ‘N’ will be counted in accordance with the savings provisions. But even just talking about it makes me anxious because I worry that others will get the wrong impression. “It’s just important to write ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on that ballot paper,” Rogers remarked.
On Friday, members of the Coalition voiced their concerns on the ticks and crosses issue, stating that it would benefit the yes campaign.
On Friday, the leader of the opposition in the Senate, Simon Birmingham, stated that permitting ticks but not crosses damaged the integrity of the process, and he called on the government to review the rule in order to guarantee that votes are “counted fairly and counted in a way that accurately reflects the will of the nation.”
Dutton went so far as to claim that the rule demonstrated that the process was “rigged” on Thursday, and he called on the commissioner to “step up and exert his independence and give a sensible interpretation.”
“I accept the fact that individuals will vote yes or no on this issue, and I acknowledge that it is their right to do so. But I don’t think we should have a process that’s rigged, and that’s what the prime minister has sought to arrange from the very beginning, he said in an interview with 2GB radio.
The charges made by the opposition were referred to as “complete rubbish” by Wayne Swan, who is currently serving as the president of the Labor Party.
“This is just the latest example of someone trying to discredit the voice by abusing the electoral system,” the speaker said. “And by doing so, discrediting basic electoral arrangements, just like many other right-wing parties around the world are doing,” Swan said on Nine’s Today show.
“It is beyond comprehension. Their behavior makes me sick to my stomach.
Earlier in the year, when discussion was taking place on the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act, the opposition Coalition did not put up any suggestions for rule changes.
Sussan Ley, deputy leader of opposition, was interviewed on Seven’s Sunrise and asked why the Coalition hadn’t brought it up sooner. In response, she said, “Well, we’re raising it now.
“Well, it’s actually an issue for the AEC, which is why I think [senior minister] Jason [Clare] should be talking to them and being absolutely firm about having a fair referendum – that’s what we want… the rules have to be fair,” Jason Clare said. “Well, it’s actually an issue for the AEC.”