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Largest voter enrolment in history ahead of Voice referendum

PM on Voice impact

Voter enrolments have surged to a record 97.7 per cent of eligible Australians signed up ahead of the Voice referendum on October 14.

The Australian Electoral Commission revealed the roll had increased by 447,447 people since the 2022 federal election – a rise of 2.6 per cent.

The AEC said it was the largest enrolment in Australian history, with 17,676,347 people able to have their say on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

The number of First Nations people enrolled is also at its highest, at 94.1 per cent of eligible voters.

“In between the announcement of the referendum date and close of rolls, approximately 79,000 people were added to the roll,” Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said on Friday.

“The youth enrolment rate has also increased to 91.4 per cent, which means approximately 1.8 million 18 to 24-year-olds are ready to vote and have their say in their first referendum.”

More than 8.4 million people on the electoral roll were not enrolled when the last referendum was held in 1999 – this is more than 47 per cent of the electoral roll.

The 8.4 million people includes 6.7 million people who were under 18 (or not born) at the time as well as 1.7 million other people who are new to the roll since 1999 – many of whom are new Australian citizens.

Meanwhile aircraft, boats and four-wheel-drives will head to the most remote parts of the country next week to enable the first votes in the Indigenous voice referendum to be cast.

Remote voting starts on Monday with 61 teams on the ground, eventually covering 750 locations in the lead-up to the October 14 vote.

The massive logistical exercise comes as the AEC again called for voters to mark ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on ballot papers in the first referendum since 1999.

The Federal Court on Wednesday dismissed an application challenging the referendum voting formality process.

United Australia Party Senator Ralph Babet and the party’s chairman, mining magnate Clive Palmer, went to the court seeking to have ballot papers marked with a cross or ‘X’ counted as a vote against the proposed alteration to the constitution.

In dismissing the application, Justice Steven Rares said a cross could indicate agreement, disapproval or an unwillingness to answer the question at all, while a tick was not similarly ambiguous, either indicating approval or an affirmative response.

In Canberra on Thursday, the Rogers said misinformation and disinformation about the voting process was a constant battle for his team.

A key issue was social media platforms not responding to requests to take down misleading posts.

Out of 47 referendum-related social media items the commission had concerns with, only 16 had been acted on by platform operators, he said.

Rogers said there had been a “reduction in platforms’ overall willingness to act”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese looks Australia’s future in the eye as he pushes the Yes case at a Canberra market. Photo: AAP

The AEC is also alerting about 350 organisations involved in the referendum campaign to ensure they keep receipts of their spending to disclosure under electoral laws.

There are plans for how are to deal with any disruptions from bushfires once early voting starts with a command centre working closely with emergency services to plot problem areas.

Meanwhile, Olympian and former senator Nova Peris told a community information session in Melbourne the world was watching the result of the referendum.

“Come October 15, if we are not seen, it is a sad indictment of this country,” she said.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who is campaigning against enshrining the Voice in the constitution, said the government had deliberately starved voters of information.

“We’re going to an election (sic) on October 14 in relation to the Voice, where most people would normally expect to have the detail before them and they don’t,” he said.

-with AAP

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