Applications for postal voting close at 7pm on Monday night. Click here to apply for a vote.
Elections are due in Queensland in less than two weeks. Every council in Queensland goes to the polls on Saturday, March 28, along with two state by-elections for the seats of Bundamba and Currumbin.
I’m not an expert on public health and I won’t try and speculate about what the COVID-19 situation might look like in Queensland in two weeks time, but there’s widespread expectation that the disease will be spread further.
With people being encouraged to work from home and large gatherings being shut down, what is the impact of bringing everyone together at their local polling place to cast a vote. This often involves people in queues and could potentially cause some problems.
Presumably there is some things that could be done, such as encouraging spacing in queues, providing hand sanitiser in the booths and spreading out the voting stations (often they take up only part of a large school hall) – I haven’t seen any reporting about whether any of these tactics will be used.
The other option is to find another way to vote. If you want to cast a postal vote you will need to make an application by 7pm on Monday, March 16.
Pre-poll voting will open on Monday and will be open until the day before election day. While you may still come into contact with other voters using this method it does allow the voting volumes to be spread out. I encourage Queenslanders, particularly those at a heightened risk, to use one of these methods to reduce any danger to their health.
But what happens if you find yourself ordered into self-isolation after postal voting closes? Do you just miss out on casting a vote?
It will be interesting to look at the number of voters who choose to cast a pre-poll or postal vote after the results come in. Pre-poll voting has been getting consistently more popular at recent elections but the popularity of postal voting is reasonably stable, so a big jump in postal votes would suggest voters are responding to the pandemic by changing their voting behaviour.
And of course electoral campaigning involves a lot of face-to-face campaigning. What happens to doorknocking and stalls? Do we just move more towards using phone calls to campaign? Does TV advertising make a resurgence?
There are more elections coming as we get further into 2020. There will be elections for two Tasmanian upper house electorates on May 2: Huon in the south-western corner of the state and Rosevears near Launceston.
Then there will be quite a few elections between August and October. The Northern Territory votes in August, followed by New South Wales councils in September and then the ACT, Queensland and Victorian councils in October. Victorian council elections are mostly conducted by post, and it seems likely they will go all-post following recent legislative changes.
That means we will see a rush of elections starting five months from now, with the fourth-biggest election in Australia held in seven-and-a-half months (the Queensland state election, on October 31). It seems likely that the peak of this pandemic will have passed by October, but it’s entirely possible that further waves of disease could mean we still won’t have returned to normal by then.
I don’t know what impact this will have on our electoral system, but it’s bound to have an impact in some way. We are lucky in Australia to have a flexible voting system which allows people to cast a vote that is convenient for them, so I encourage those at risk to look at spreading out demand for voting facilities over longer periods through the use of postal and pre-poll voting, and please wash your hands.