'Confusion' over Voice ballot paper rule: What you need to know

Australians have just one box to fill in at in the upcoming Voice referendum, but some have argued it's not that simple.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is outraged after it emerged ticks on Voice referendum ballot papers could be accepted as a 'Yes' vote, but crosses won't be counted.

So is this rule a legitimate cause for concern for the 'No' campaign, or a storm in a tea cup?

What you need to know:

  • The referendum for adding an Indigenous Voice in Parliament will likely be on October 14, and everyone registered on the electoral roll is required to vote.

  • It's the first referendum since Aussies were asked if they wanted to become a republic in 1999.

  • Confusion over what counts as a valid vote emerged during a Sky News interview with Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) commissioner Tom Rogers.

  • He said that a tick could be counted as a formal vote, but an 'x' would likely be informal.

  • There will be one box on the ballot paper, where voters will be expected to write 'Yes' or 'No'.

  • 'No' campaigners argue in the case of a referendum it could unfairly favour the 'Yes' vote.

🗣️ What they said:

Peter Dutton, Opposition leader on 2GB: "I think it's completely outrageous to be honest… If a tick counts for 'Yes' then a cross should count for 'No', it's as clear as that."

Education Minister Jason Clare on Sunrise: "When John Howard held a referendum into the republic, same rules, it worked fine, and I believe there were less than one per cent of informal votes."

"John Howard didn’t want us to become a republic, he was urging people to vote No and these were the rules he put in place."

A statement from the AEC to Yahoo News: "Please don’t use [ticks or crosses] ... we will be very clear with our communication that people need to write the full word 'yes' or 'no'."

A ballot paper for the Voice to the left. And to the right a people with their backs to camera voting.
The AEC says voting on the Voice is simple, you just need to write either 'yes' or 'no'. source: AEC/Getty

💬 Conversation Starter:

Ticks being accepted, and crosses being refused is not new. In fact, it's been a rule for more than 30 years and multiple referendums dating back to 1988.

During the republic referendum in 1999, people overwhelmingly filled in their ballots correctly with a 'Yes' or 'No' and the informal vote was just 0.86 per cent.

⏭️ So what next?

It couldn't be any more straightforward, according to the AEC.

The instructions will ask you to write either 'yes' or 'no' on the ballot paper, in response to the referendum question: A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?

'It's that easy', the AEC says.

🗳 What do you think?

Read more about how to vote in the referendum with full AEC instructions here.

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