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EARLY BIRDS: Election candidate Shane Latcham believes COVID-19 has pushed more people into voting early.
EARLY BIRDS: Election candidate Shane Latcham believes COVID-19 has pushed more people into voting early.

Coronavirus concerns inspire early voters

AS local government elections loom, many Rockhampton residents yesterday ventured to the polling booths early in a bid to ensure their voices were heard.

Day one of pre-polling delivered an impressive turnout, with a steady stream of voters heading over to Rockhampton Showgrounds' James Lawrence Pavilion to get their votes in early.

However reasons for early voting differed with the COVID-19 pandemic a clear motivator for many.

In light of the global pandemic, some voters admitted to pre-polling in order to avoid the typically large crowds expected come election day on Saturday, March 28.

While a younger demographic of voters said conflicting work schedules or routine of early voting bought them to the site, many elderly voters confessed new government restrictions and preventative measures had inspired their timely decision.

Division One hopeful Shane Latcham described the atmosphere as "civil and pleasant," adding that he expected the number of people attending pre-polls to increase steadily over the coming week.

"[Coronavirus] is obviously on their minds.

"Because of that I do expect people to choose pre-poll rather than vote on election day - it could be as high as 50 per cent," he said.

"Pre-polling was roughly at 25 per cent last time, so I think we'll be close to doubling that this year, purely due to coronavirus."

Despite mounting public concern, Mr Latcham said polling booth methods were still going strong and proved a necessary commodity in Australia's democratic process - even in light of the pandemic.

"Who knows, this could really be a once off. They're talking about a once-in-a-generation thing, it's hard to say. I just think some people hate elections and other people love them."

He also said in-person polling was a better option and a more efficient alternative to postal voting.

"I'm sure there will be people who do postal votes, I just think the process is a bit difficult. People hate filling out forms and sending them back and forth. I just don't know how they can streamline it though," he said.

Mr Latcham admitted there were some changes he would like to see to the election process including a decrease in the pre-polling period from two weeks to one.

"It's just too long, you're either going to vote early or you're not. It's as simple as that."



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