Sunrise host Nat Barr quizzed Anthony Albanese’s government on why voters have been banned from using a cross to vote against the Voice in Parliament – but Yes voters can still just use a tick.
His question comes after Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers sparked a debate by telling Sky News ‘a tick will be accepted as a formal Yes vote, but a cross will not be accepted as a formal vote’.
The ballot will require the word Yes or No to be written in a box. This will be specified in instructions issued by the Australian Electoral Commission.
Barr asked Albanian government minister Jason Clare: “Should a cross-vote be accepted as a no vote if the electoral commission has to accept a yes tick?
Clare countered, arguing that the same strategy was used in the 1999 Republican referendum and caused no confusion.
“When John Howard held a referendum with the public, the same rules worked well and I believe there were less than 1 percent informal votes,” he said.
“John Howard didn’t want us to become a republic, he was urging people to vote no and those were the rules put in place.
“I think that drives home the argument that it’s going to confuse.”
Yesterday Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said voters should be able to validly tick or tick their ballot and that he would write to Rogers for clarification on his comments.
But Barr then asked Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley why she did not raise concerns about the poll several weeks ago when she was in parliament.
“If a tick counts as Yes, then a cross should count as No. It’s as clear as that,” he told 2GB radio on Thursday.
“Otherwise, it gives a very, very strong advantage to the Yes case.”
“We are talking about it now. It’s actually a matter for the AEC (Australian Electoral Commission),” Ms Ley told the Sunrise host on Friday.
“We want a fair referendum, the rules must be fair.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Vote in Parliament referendum was thrown into chaos after election officials said a tick would count as a yes but a cross would not count as a no.
However, Ms Ley argued that Australia was now in the “modern age” and the rules used almost three decades ago, in 1999, were no longer applicable.
“We have a lot more Australians who don’t speak English and we want everyone to vote in this referendum, so just what would people think?”
“A tick is Yes, a cross is No,” she said.
Mr Clare said if the opposition had been “serious” about the ballot format, they would have tried to change the laws several weeks ago.
“The fact that we’re using the same rules that have been in place for 30 years and that in the last referendum there was an informal vote of less than 1 percent, that tells you that this is all political,” he said. he declared.
Nat Barr (centre) asked Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley (right) why she did not raise concerns about the poll several weeks ago when she was in Parliament .
The revelation has drawn heavy criticism from the opposition, who say the yes vote will be given an unfair advantage when Australians have their say later in the year.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the advice appeared to be evidence that the authorities were trying to back a winning Yes outcome.
“The problem with all of this is that there is a suspicion that the authorities are trying to make it easier for one party,” he told 2GB’s Ben Fordham.
“At least, as originally stated, it looks like it will be easier to get a yes vote than a no vote, if a simple tick counts as a yes but you have to specifically write ‘no’ to vote no.
“That’s what has worried us from the start: there’s a lot of official bias in this whole referendum process.”
Commissioner Rogers dismissed accusations that the decision favored yes, saying: “No, not at all. We couldn’t take them that way.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbot said Election Commissioner Rogers’ advice appeared to be evidence that the authorities were trying to back a winning Yes outcome.
Mr Abbott disagrees, saying the decision tips the balance in favor of yes.
“The rules of the game are not level,” he said. “It’s not a fair fight and if a tick is a yes, why wouldn’t a cross be a no?
“The only way to escape this kind of confusion is to make it clear that you are either voting no or voting yes.
The AEC upheld the commissioner’s endorsement of a tick as a Yes vote and said the use of a cross may not be clear about a voter’s intentions.
“But grades of one kind or another that aren’t No or Yes don’t count.”
He added: “Given that this is a very important matter, given that this is the biggest change to our constitution that we have ever been asked to make, surely it should not there should be no confusion or uncertainty about what constitutes a valid vote.
“And unfortunately – I don’t want to criticize the Electoral Commissioner personally – but it does seem to be confusing and a real problem nonetheless.”
Fordham joined in the outrage, calling the decision “bizarre” and “questionable.”
“If you count ticks, you have to count crosses, right? Otherwise, the Yes side has an advantage,” he said.
Mr Dutton later added that he thought it was a sign that the system had been “rigged” from the start.
“I think it’s completely outrageous,” he told 2GB’s Ray Hadley. “I will write to the AEC commissioner today.
“I don’t think we should have a rigged process, and that’s what the Prime Minister orchestrated from day one.”