In a bid to reduce the number of people at polling booths, candidates and their campaigners have been directed by the Electoral Commission of Queensland to not canvass outside polling places altogether.
Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the ECQ’s second Directive would minimise static interaction and be in the best health interests of attendees at early polling and election day booths.
To aid voters, the second Directive allowed for how-to-vote information provided by candidates to be displayed inside polling places by ECQ officials.
Mr Hinchliffe said it followed the first Directive on Thursday, which banned the handing out of how-to-vote cards and other electoral material.
“As of 5pm yesterday (Friday), about half a million Queenslanders had cast their vote at a ballot box and more than 540,000 had applied for a postal vote,” he said.
Mr Hinchliffe said voters should take advantage of extended early voting hours at more than 120 booths across the State being open from 9am today, Saturday 21 March.
“This is the first time in history Queenslanders will be able to vote two Saturdays in a row, including the official election day next Saturday 28 March,” he said.
ECQ Commissioner Pat Vidgen said the ban would reassure voters that heading to the polling booth would be as quick a process as possible.
“Early voting, telephone voting and the demand for postal votes tells us that Queenslanders want this process to go ahead,” he said.
Mr Hinchliffe said the latest advice from Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young was that it was still safe to hold council elections up to and on 28 March.
“The risk of contracting COVID-19 at a polling location is low,” Dr Young has advised the ECQ.
“People will be frequently entering and exiting the environment, spending little time in static close contact, which reduces the risk of spread of COVID 19.
“I appreciate the measures being proposed by Electoral Commission Queensland as they should address the risk of community transmission of COVID-19, while allowing important electoral processes to continue.”
The Electoral Commissioner hereby directs:
• All persons are prohibited from canvassing for votes or distributing how-to-vote cards or election material at a polling booth. This applies to ALL polling booths in Queensland;
• All persons must abide by the social distancing rules for gatherings of less than 100 people;
• All persons attending a polling booth must maintain hygiene standards, in accordance with Queensland Health guidelines;
• All persons must not shake hands, or attempt to shake hands, with electors as they are entering or waiting to enter the polling booth
• If candidates, political parties, or other electoral participants wish for their how-to-vote cards and/or election material to be available to electors, the material must be provided to the booth supervisor. The material will be displayed at the polling booth, in a way deemed appropriate by the booth supervisor. A minimum requirement is that how-to-vote cards and election material must be displayed in ballot paper order, as far as practicable. Candidates, political parties or other electoral participants must not interfere or obstruct the booth supervisor or other ECQ staff enacting this direction;
• Candidates, political parties or other electoral participants must not interfere or remove howto-vote cards or election material once they are displayed by the booth supervisor or other ECQ staff.
ECQ staff will be actively monitoring compliance with this Direction. The Electoral Commissioner has the power to issue further directions, in the event ECQ staff observe non-compliance.
Failure to comply with this Direction carries a maximum penalty of 10 penalty units, currently valued at $1,334.50.
All existing laws and regulations regarding canvassing for votes at a polling booth continue to apply, including those relating to exclusion zones.
Minister for Local Government, Minister for Racing and Minister for Multicultural Affairs
The Honourable Stirling Hinchliffe