Voting in Queensland. What are the challenges of holding elections in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic?

I observed early voting on Friday and saw long well-spaced queues being supervised by a cheerful electoral officer.

On Saturday morning, on the main day to vote, one might have expected bigger queues but that is not what I encountered.  Where it was very busy last time, there were no queues at all

There were none of the usual leaflets handed out but there was plenty of signage so that was no problem  That would certainly have reduced the litter problem

I got my hands sprayed with sanitizer and I used the pencil supplied to mark my ballot paper.

The big miss is that there were no charity stalls cooking sausages.  Election sausages are an appreciated part of Australian elections and, being something of a sausage freak, I certainly missed them.

There are as yet no figures on the turnout to vote but despite compulsory voting, turnout at municipal elections is always well down. From what I saw, it would have been really down in this election.  A lot of people probably saw coronavirus restrictions as a good excuse to skip voting this time.

Countries around the globe have postponed elections due to the coronavirus pandemic but in Queensland, top officials say you are more at risk in the supermarket aisle than the polling booth.

The State Government is pushing ahead with Saturday's planned local government elections and two state by-elections on the advice of its chief health officer.

Authorities said measures like physical distancing, plus a record number of pre-poll and postal votes, meant the risk was low compared to other day-to-day activities like grocery shopping.

The Electoral Commissioner flagged State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers could even be called upon to help maintain physical distancing at the booths during "these extraordinary times".

But the move to go ahead with the elections has baffled some doctors and scientists in the community who believe it is a gathering "we shouldn't have" and is inconsistent with other messages to stay home.

Hygiene concerns have also seen three Brisbane Catholic schools decide to pull out as polling booth venues.

There are around 3.3 million eligible voters across Queensland.

As of 6:30pm Thursday, more than 1 million people had cast their vote early, on top of another 570,000 who registered for a postal vote.

According to Queensland's chief health officer Jeannette Young, there is no risk in going to vote tomorrow with the safety measures in place.

The Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) is telling people to bring their own pen or pencil and stand 1.5 metres from others, while how-to-vote cards or election material won't be handed out.

Its website said hand sanitiser would be provided "where available" for voters and polling officials, and there would be extra cleaning to ensure surfaces were regularly disinfected.


1 comment:

  1. Times they are a-changing and hopefully some things will change for the better. But I would not like to see poker players change their stacks of money for toilet paper, only to raise their bids with a certain number of wipes. Some won’t have it. But today I will have a simple plate of chicken meatballs in tomato sauce, spaghetti, olive oil and a drizzle of Parmigiano Reggiano.


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