Calls to expand postal voting shot down
DESPITE the looming viral threat of COVID-19 in CQ, it’s too late to stop or alter the March 28 local government elections to increase postal voting conducted, according to the Queensland Government.
Seeking to steer clear of the virus, a last minute stampede by thousands of people trying to sign up for postal voting before the 7pm deadline, crashed the Electoral Commission of Queensland’s website yesterday.
Livingstone Shire councillor Glenda Mather said she had received 15 phone calls from her constituents wishing to order a postal vote but they couldn’t get through on the Queensland Electoral Commission phone line.
She said it was a massive frustration for dozens of Livingstone’s older voters that there wasn’t enough staff manning the phones.
Believing Queensland communities deserved the option of voting with “zero risk”, Livingstone Shire Mayor Bill Ludwig made an urgent plea over the weekend to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on behalf of the region’s councils to consider changing voting to full postal across the state, or extending both the issue and receipt of postal votes by seven to 14 days.
“Requiring Queensland voters to congregate at crowded polling booths, when it is almost guaranteed that somewhere, undiagnosed COVID-19 infected individuals will be presenting to vote, defies commonsense,” Cr Ludwig said.
In a phone hook up yesterday between key stakeholders and the Queensland Government, Cr Ludwig learnt the bad news that his request to expand postal voting had been shot down.
Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said current advice from the chief health officer was that the elections did not need to be delayed at this stage and applications for postal votes would close as planned at 7pm last night.
“Discussions with health authorities and the electoral commissioner and engagement with councils and peak bodies will continue, Mr Hinchliffe said.
“We will always act on the latest expert advice and will continue to seek updates.
“That’s not to say things may not change in the future. We will always respond to the best and most current health advice.”
Minister for Justice and the Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said she had discussed the matters with mayors and CEOs from across Queensland.
“Conversations are being held about volunteer staffing at polling booths, how-to-vote cards, postal vote supplies and how to best address the needs of vulnerable people, including the elderly and people living with disabilities,” Ms D’Ath said.
“Early voting stations have opened at about 150 sites across Queensland and more information is available on the ECQ website.
“I also urge people to be patient as the ECQ has received tens of thousands of phone and internet inquiries this morning. These are extraordinary times.
“As the Premier has said, people should stay healthy, follow the advice of medical experts and be considerate of everyone in your communities.”
Cr Ludwig said CQROC member councils were obviously disappointed at the State Government’s postal vote decision.
“Notwithstanding our disappointment, CQROC Councils will continue to give Queensland Health and the State Government every support possible,” Cr Ludwig said.
“We must ensure that every is made by our councils both directly and through our Local Disaster Management Groups to collectively manage this extremely challenging and complex pandemic event to the best of our ability. Councils are encouraging the community to focus on and follow the advice of QLD Health as the lead agency.
“On behalf of CQROC we would also like to reassure the community that from our combined council’s perspective that no effort will be spared to assist them through this difficult time.”
People voting at pre-polling and on election day were being urged by authorities to bring their own pen and use the provided hand sanitisers.