Australia’s electoral commissioner has slammed ‘tinfoil hat wearing weirdos’ for spreading misinformation online in the run-up to the Voice referendum.
Tom Rogers has opened up about the problematic talking points he’s heard online as the referendum fast approaches and Australians head to the polls on October 14.
Mr Rogers addressed inaccuracies spread by a “small” number of voters without meaning to “attack the internet” during a speech at a briefing on Thursday.
Officials faced abuse as they tried to correct misinformation about the vote, leading the AEC to change how it approached the issue, Mr Rogers said.
Mr Rogers denied an annoying rumor that the AEC had used American-style voting machines which would “erase” votes.
Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers says a tiny amount of “tinfoil hat-wearing, weirdo” conspiracy theorists are causing headaches for the AEC online.
In the run-up to the Voice to Parliament referendum, AEC officials faced torrents of abuse and social media companies failed to weed out misinformation, Mr Rogers said.
Not only were conspiracy theorists attacking the legitimacy of the vote, but social media giants had failed to curb their violent rhetoric, Mr. Rogers said.
“We’ve seen higher levels of abuse, I would use the term vitriolic, online,” he said.
“This is the first social media referendum in Australian history.”
The AEC has worked with social media companies to ensure misinformation is removed from their platforms, but these calls have not always been successful.
Social media was used to sow major divisions in the United States by former President Donald Trump following the 2020 presidential election.
One of Mr. Trump’s favorite talking points was about electronic voting machines and how they allegedly tampered with votes, leading to his defeat.
This fear of electronic machines was echoed by some Australians, which Mr Roger used to point out the lack of logic in certain arguments.
“We don’t use voting machines,” he said.
In Australia, all elections are conducted using paper ballots on which voters apply a pen to label their vote.
Mail-in ballots also remained a talking point for conspiracy theorists who tore them up during remote pandemic elections.
A record number of voters applied to vote by post ahead of the Voice referendum, with more than 1.2 million registered applications already lodged.
Although Mr. Rogers said it was not a like-for-like comparison, only one million applications for postal ballots were submitted before the May 2022 federal election.
Talk of electronic voting machines tampering with the referendum makes the least sense to Mr Rogers, who simply said “we don’t use voting machines”.
He also warned that the AEC could need almost two weeks to count votes if the referendum was close.
“People asked me: will we get a result that night? And the answer is, I don’t know. It depends on how close the result is that day,” he said.
“Given that we are at 1.2 million postal votes, we may well have to wait for the postal votes to return before the results are clear, and we will have to wait a full 13 days in under the law just to deal with this.’
Mr Roger said the AEC “will go the extra mile to ensure all Australians can vote” in the record referendum.
The number of people aged 18 to 24 has reached a record high, with 91.4 percent of eligible voters already registered.
The Indigenous Voter List also reached its highest number of voters on record, with 94.1 percent of the population registered.
Total referendum registrations currently stand at 17,676,347, or 97.7 per cent of eligible Australians.
In order to reach the final percent, Mr Rogers said the AEC would travel to remote locations across the country over the next three weeks to register people.
Planes, boats and other means of transportation will be used to access rugged hinterlands and offshore lands.
Mobile voting for all remote locations will begin on Monday and it will be the most “logistically difficult” and complex operation of its kind in history.
Telephone voting will also be available to people who are blind or partially sighted, as well as all Australians based in Antarctica.
Voters will be contacted by “any means possible,” Deputy Commissioner Jeff Pope said.
“We go into these communities to try to bring the right to vote to as many people as possible,” Pope said.
The October 14 poll is expected to be one of the largest in history, with 17,676,347, or 97.7 per cent, of eligible Australians registered to vote.
“This is one of the largest and most complex undertakings in Western democracies around the world.”
More than 500 early voting centers will be located across the country and 7,000 voting booths will be used for same-day voting.
Mr. Rogers reiterated that with all this effort to reach active voters, the conspiracies circulating online remain the last frontier for his team.
“We are adapting our own social media footprint and how we interact with individuals,” he said.
“There’s no point going down a rabbit hole when you know someone is deliberately trying to drag you down.”
“What we’re trying to do is address this issue with positive information…providing factual information.” We continue to address misinformation online as it emerges.
“We’re not stopping anyone from saying anything, Australians have the right to believe what they want to believe… but if they talk about the process and it’s wrong, we will deal with it and put it also in our disinformation. register.’