23 September 2023

AEC must step up after turning its back on remote voters in Cape York

| Matt Nicholls
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The Australian Electoral Commission either needs more funding or it needs a kick up the backside.

This year’s federal election saw the removal of two major polling booths in Cape York, while another was nearly lost at the last minute due to a lack of staffing.

The Aurukun and Napranum voting booths had been slated for removal in advance and those communities were instead visited by a mobile booth prior to Saturday, but sources told Cape York Weekly that voter turnout was well down.

The Kowanyama booth was staffed on Saturday, but not before an urgent callout from the AEC earlier in the week that it was desperately trying to find people to man it.

But nothing was relayed to local media.

The AEC has a budget in excess of half a billion dollars to run federal elections, yet didn’t place one job ad in Cape York Weekly or any other regional newspaper.

Instead, they relied on paid Facebook advertising.

When the remote polling booths visited the likes of Mapoon, Laura, Aurukun, Seisia and Napranum, there wasn’t an ad or a story in the newspaper to let the community know they were coming.

It’s just not good enough.

If you aren’t going to run polling booths in these communities on election day, you have to give plenty of notice about when you are going to be there.

It’s a disgrace that two communities the size of Aurukun and Napranum did not have a polling booth on Saturday.

But before the AEC gets to the next election, it must dedicate funding towards lifting the enrolment rate in Cape York.

There are far too many people eligible to vote that are not enrolled.

Invest the time into educating the communities about the importance of enrolling and how they can make a difference at the polling booth.

And educate people about preference voting.

The informal voting rate was abysmal on Saturday and most of it can be put down to a lack of knowledge on the matter.

Remote Australians are just as important as those living in the cities and their vote carries just as much weight.

Time to step up, AEC.

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