Voice volunteers are urgently warned to stay on alert amid fears of tensions boiling over on referendum day
Sausage bites, colorful pamphlets and high tensions are expected when voters turn out to cast their ballots in the biggest electoral event in Australia’s history.
Millions of people will enter some 8,000 polling stations on October 14 to vote if they want to have a constitutionally sanctioned indigenous voice in Parliament.
Campaign volunteers have been urged to stay alert and have been provided with online training to help navigate any unexpected incidents or altercations.
The landmark event follows months of grueling campaigning and is expected to trigger a bucketload of ‘mixed emotions’, according to Yes23 volunteer Stacee Ketchell.
“We will have captains leading each cabin and they will brief the volunteers, ensuring that their safety and well-being is our priority and that we have support for them,” Ms Ketchell said.
Campaign volunteers (pictured) have been asked to be aware of unexpected incidents and confrontations ahead of referendum day on Saturday
“We’re going to do a roster of different people and we’ve got crowds wading through the water for our volunteers. It’s our whole community coming together and it’s really powerful and it’s going to be great to see.’
“It’s been a long journey,” she said.
“We are very eager and ready to go, but we understand that the reality of this and there are opposing views, but not everyone has been respectful.”
Millions of Australians have voted in advance, with around 550 advance polling stations across the country open until Friday night.
According to Ms Ketchell, who has helped co-ordinate pro-Voice volunteer efforts in Far North Queensland, there have been a number of ‘outbursts’ made at activists, ranging from people shouting from their cars to street confrontations.
“We have been told a number of things and most of them are not even worth repeating,” she told NCA NewsWire.
“But it’s actually being countered by the positive engagements that we’re having and when you walk into the mall with a shirt on, you get a thumbs up, you get big smiles, so it makes it all worth it.”
On Saturday, October 14, local schools, churches and town halls will host polling stations, with polling stations open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Thousands of polling stations (pictured) will be active across the country as Australia decides whether voters are for or against constitutional change
Hundreds of cake and barbecue stalls, with volunteers selling ‘democracy sausages’, are expected to be on display in what the Prime Minister has described as a ‘once in a lifetime’ event.
Emotions can run high given the highly charged nature of the Voice’s national debate, which has seen an increase in racism and discriminatory rhetoric against First Nations people.
Around 2 million postal voting applications were made before referendum day and as of October 12, around 4 million people have voted at an early voting centre.
More Australians than ever have registered to vote, with 97.7 per cent of the eligible population or more than 17.5 million people set to vote.
The highest ever numbers of Indigenous people and young voters will also have their say on October 14, with registrations up 94 and 91.4 per cent respectively.
More than 7000 polling stations across the country will be manned by more than 100,000 temporary workers, including around 1000 volunteers from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).
AEC spokesman Evan Elkin-Smyth said he believed the ‘vast majority’ of voters would act civilly and behave respectfully on the big day.
Our staff are not a police force, they are there to administer an important democratic process. They are members of the community – mothers, fathers, neighbors,” he said.
He said the polling body would closely monitor any risk of natural disasters affecting people’s ability to vote after dozens of bushfires were reported in NSW this week.
The Voice debate has been emotionally charged as campaigners (pictured) have made their voices heard in recent months ahead of the big poll
“At the moment we will watch closely and move if we need to – obviously if something goes wrong, people’s first priority is their safety,” he said.
About 125,000 Australians have already voted through an AEC mobile polling team, including 23,000 people living in remote communities.
As part of the largest remote voting operation in Australian history, SEC staff poured into 750 rural locations to retrieve early ballots.
Mr Ekin-Smyth said the electorate had recorded a 35 per cent increase in early voting in more remote parts of Australia.
“It’s been a significant effort,” he said.
“We are talking about logistical arrangements using seaplanes or four-wheelers moving hundreds of kilometers to remote communities, with voting booths located in huts with teams of four to five officials.
“It’s always difficult and complex, but we’ve done more than ever before.”
On the night of voting, the CEC counting room will automatically update the electorate results for each electorate every 90 seconds.
Every vote cast on Saturday will be counted Saturday night, the SEC said, with most early votes and a small amount of postal votes also expected to be counted, depending on how many are returned.
People have already voted ahead of referendum day on October 14 with around 4 million people voting at an early voting centre.
However, a final result may not be given on October 14 given the large number of postal votes.
The SEC must wait 13 days after polling day before it closes for postal votes, meaning counting can continue until October 27.
Updates will be distributed every 15 minutes the following day, with a booth-by-booth breakdown released before the final vote is out.
Voters will be asked to vote yes or no on a single question:
‘A proposed law: to amend the Constitution to recognize Australia’s First Peoples by creating an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve of this proposed change?’
(tagsTranslate) daily mail(s) news(s) Indigenous Voice for Parliament(s) Australia