Extraordinary steps to protect election day voters revealed

VOTERS will be allowed to bring their own pens and pencils and authorities will keep numbers below 500 at busy polling booths as part of extra measures to protect public health on election day.

Despite the banning of gatherings of more than 500 people, the Electoral Commission of Queensland determined it was in the public interest to hold the local government elections and State by-elections in Bundamba and Currumbin on March 28.

Queensland Electoral Commissioner Pat Vidgen said the elections were "essential public events required to ensure the continuity of democratic representation".

"It is extremely unlikely that more than 500 people would ever be in a polling booth at any one time, and electors generally only spend a short period of time in a booth," he said.

Voters will go to the polls on March 28. Photo: Brett Wortman / Sunshine Coast Daily
Voters will go to the polls on March 28. Photo: Brett Wortman / Sunshine Coast Daily

The ECQ said it would monitor the number of electors in busy booths to limit the number to fewer than 500 at one time, offer telephone voting to electors in 'declared institutions' such as aged care facilities, rather than conducting in-person mobile polling, and allowing people to bring their own pens or pencils to polling booths.

The measures come as Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner calls for an urgent extension to the postal vote deadline as fears mount about possible exposure to coronavirus on polling day.

Cr Schrinner contacted Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe and asked for the postal vote application deadline to be pushed back from 7pm on Monday, March 16, to 7pm on Wednesday, March 25.

"There are genuine concerns about attending mass gatherings, and the Minister needs to act quickly to ensure the large numbers of voters are not disenfranchised," Cr Schrinner said. "Residents deserve ample time to exercise their right to choose whether they avoid polling day crowds and register for a postal vote."

 

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner wants an extension to the postal vote deadline amid coronavirus fears.
Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner wants an extension to the postal vote deadline amid coronavirus fears.

More than 770,000 people will vote in the Brisbane City Council election.

"Quite rightly, people don't want to touch pencils, ballot papers or materials given out because of the potential hand-to-surface transmission of coronavirus," he said.

"I have raised this mounting community disquiet and concern to the minister and hope that common sense will prevail in these extraordinary times.

"If you are elderly, have a compromised immune system or you are sick I implore you to register for a postal vote immediately."

People must apply for a postal vote through the ECQ website or by calling 1300 881 665 before 7pm on Monday, March 16.

Early voting will start on Monday.