Pre-polling surge among ACT voters is at record levels

Genevieve Jacobs 3 May 2019 27

More than a third of voters are likely to pre-poll in 2019 and Canberrans are in the lead. File photo.

Soaring numbers of pre-poll and postal votes for the 2019 election have put an interesting twist in the campaign plans for would-be politicians as more and more Canberrans get their vote over and done with long before the election sausage sizzles fire up.

Australian Electoral Commission spokesman Phil Diak says pre-polling numbers are “huge” and continuing to grow. Since pre-polling booths opened on Monday, Mr Diak says that the AEC has seen “a significant uptick nationally over the last three days”, running at 125,000 votes per day.

Nationally, that means that around 375,000 votes have already been cast, compared with around 225,000 at a similar time in the last Federal election. In 2016 three million Australian voters pre-polled and a further 1.2 million postal votes were cast, meaning that around 4.4 million had voted before polling day, or roughly one-third of eligible voters.

“Since the last election, there’s been a natural growth in the rolls of around 750,000, so we’d automatically anticipate some growth in pre-poll numbers, but we’re also expecting a significant pre-polling boost on the figures we’ve seen already,” Mr Diak said. “We also know that heaviest pre-polling takes place in the final week of the campaign.

“At the last election we opened 440 pre-poll voting centres and this time we’ll have 500. We opened 220 this week nationally and next week we’ll roughly double that number to meet the demand we’re expecting.”

The AEC’s Evan Ekin-Smyth says that four pre-polling booths are now open in the ACT at Canberra Museum and Gallery; the Belconnen Community Centre; in Anketell St., Greenway and in the Cosmopolitan building in Bowes Place, Woden. Next week a further centre will open in the Quokka pavilion at EPIC and in the final week, voters will be able to pre-poll at Old Parliament House.

“In the first three days, 8700 votes were cast,” Ekin-Smythe says. “At the same stage in 2016, 4041 had been cast, so the rate has more than doubled.” In 2016, 71,973 pre-polls were cast from an enrolment of 282,045. The ACT enrolment for 2019 is 295,933.

“Around a decade ago the pre-poll rate was about 10 per cent including postal votes. At the last election, the rate was 31 per cent and it is clearly going up again.”

To pre-poll, all you need to do is turn up to any of the locations. Mr Ekin-Smythe says that while you’re required under the legislation to have a sound reason, it’s a self-declaration and the AEC doesn’t follow up on whether people are actually travelling, working or expecting the imminent arrival of a baby.

“Some people do pull up and say ‘I didn’t know I needed a reason, I’ll come back on election day’, but most people are just making sure they comply with their requirements,” Mr Ekin-Smythe said. The same conditions apply to postal votes: the best way to cast one is to go online to

The growing trend towards early polling is having significant effects on political campaigns, which are often designed to sway undecided voters at the last minute. In the past, political parties have released a staggered portfolio of policies, leaving the full reveal until election day is nigh.

In 2016, Labor left it until six days before the election date to release their full costings. When well over a third of voters have already made their minds up, chances of a last-minute swing are considerably diminished although people who have already voted also can’t change their minds about a policy disaster.


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27 Responses to Pre-polling surge among ACT voters is at record levels
Gilavon Gilavon 8:14 am 07 May 19

On polling day I’ll be touring Lake Eyre and environs so pre-polled yesterday. Several people of varies ethnicities in the queue, all holding handfuls of “how to vote” thrust at them by the drones hanging around outside.
An Asian man in front of me asked me it he is supposed to give all of the HTV guff to the official at the table, a lady of unidentified origin looked on and nodded, both said the same thing; “confusing, don’t know what this is for”.
There will be much informal and donkey voting methinks.

Paul Rutherford Paul Rutherford 9:01 pm 04 May 19

As a senior Australian I voted pre-poll for the first time yesterday. The great thing about the reformed Senate voting system is you can actually vote without passing even a remote preference to the far right trash like Palmer, Hanson, Bernardi or Anning's nazi party. And best of all it is possible to avoid voting for Zed at all.😉🍷

Ben Roberts Ben Roberts 10:55 pm 03 May 19

I’ll vote when it is convenient for me, not for the politicians.

Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 9:08 pm 03 May 19

I wonder why people pre-poll for federal elections?

    Angela Thomas Angela Thomas 10:21 pm 03 May 19

    Russell Nankervis couldn’t wait to leave the country as it swirls down the gurgler

    David Murn David Murn 11:03 pm 03 May 19

    I'll be at sea from 8 until 5 on election day and won't have time to vote before closing time at 6pm.

    Adrian Jay Adrian Jay 11:15 pm 03 May 19

    Russell Nankervis because they’re sick of it and just want it over and done with

    Frowe Mel Frowe Mel 11:57 am 04 May 19

    Nothing worse I could think of then standing in line with 6 kids on polling day. Easier to do it mid week when most of the kids are are school and there is no line.

    Melissa Liddon Melissa Liddon 12:42 pm 04 May 19

    Russell Nankervis husband works Saturdays and can’t guarantee what time he’ll finish. For me the prospect of standing in line with two kids who don’t handle crowds by myself, it’s better to go when they’re at school.

    James Forge James Forge 11:38 pm 05 May 19

    Because it is better than being hassled when you enter a polling both.

Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 8:49 pm 03 May 19

If you’ve already made up your mind, why not?

Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 7:31 pm 03 May 19

We love to complain about politicians, but can’t spare a couple of hours every 3 years or so to exercise our democratic right. Then we wonder why politicians treat us with contempt.

    Liz Hampton Liz Hampton 9:57 pm 03 May 19

    Gabriel Spacca some of us have better things to do

    Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 10:16 pm 03 May 19

    One of the great paradoxes of living in a democracy. You’re allowed to think that living in a democracy is inconvenient.

    Debbi Fluke Debbi Fluke 7:08 am 04 May 19

    Gabriel Spacca we’re still voting. Who cares if people do it early or by post? We know what they all stand for on the big issues anyway

    Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 1:04 pm 04 May 19

    Debbi, it’s the reasons people vote early that I find frustrating. A percentage will have genuine reasons to, and will have carefully considered their choice, but the increase in early voting seems to me to be an indication that most find voting inconvenient, something to get out of the way, rather than carefully consider.

    And then there’s those examples as in recent days when some candidates have been disenfranchised or quit. What if you’ve already voted for one of those candidates, you’ve effectively wasted a preference.

    Perhaps I’m wrong but we seem to take voting as a chore rather than a privilege that some people on this planet do not get. We shouldn’t take democracy for granted, we should be happy we are in a position where we can partake of the democratic process.

    Debbi Fluke Debbi Fluke 8:38 pm 06 May 19

    Gabriel Spacca the logistics of sometimes lining up - often in bad weather - for a couple of hours when you have other commitments, children etc can be difficult to manage - that’s just a fact, it doesn’t mean we don’t respect and value the process. In fact when I’ve got a postal vote sitting in front of me I can take the time to look things up as I’m voting rather than going into a polling booth and trying to remember exactly who I want to vote for in the exact order.

    As far as I’m aware (but someone can correct me)!if someone is disendorsed or quits the votes still count and if they’re elected they still have the opportunity to take their seat. Some disendorsed candidates run as independents anyway. And maybe some of the responsibility of valuing our democracy should be placed on the candidates/parties to make sure they screen potential candidates better and behave better so we don’t end up with so many people being disendorsed after the ballot has been printed.

    I regularly pre-poll or postal vote and I definitely think don’t think that’s a reflection of any lack of interest in or respect for our democratic purpose.

Rob Chalmers Rob Chalmers 7:24 pm 03 May 19

People have had 3 years to judge a government. What happens every election is the government of the day in the last week declares there is a massive miscalculation or black hole in an oppositions proposal. This is often trotted out as costings by Finance or Treasury. The extent to which the media runs with this potentially has to much influence on the election results.

Roberta Lynne Anning Roberta Lynne Anning 7:15 pm 03 May 19

Nope, won't be voting early. Don't want to miss out on the sausage sizzle. 🤭

Hayley Conna Hayley Conna 6:57 pm 03 May 19

Jayme you can vote before you go away 😊

Bethany Williams Bethany Williams 6:28 pm 03 May 19

Everyone wants to get in early so they can make sure they put Zed last! 😂😂😂

    Bethany Williams Bethany Williams 10:08 pm 03 May 19

    Ted Douglas then Zed, right?

    Debbi Fluke Debbi Fluke 7:09 am 04 May 19

    Bethany Williams I didn’t numberZed at all on my postal vote 🎊

    James Forge James Forge 11:40 pm 05 May 19

    A mate of mine voted last week and passed Zed on the way out. He kindly informed Zed that he had placed him last. Zed ignored him as he does most Canberrans.

Gilavon Gilavon 1:50 pm 03 May 19

I don’t need an election campaign to know where I will place my vote. Continual assessment over the life of the current parliament informs me. My mind is made up even before the election is called, all I want to do is get it over and done.

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