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Get your vote in early: Qld poll to take place over consecutive Saturdays

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The Electoral Commission of Queensland is making changes to prevent queues and allow for social distancing. That means you can pick your Saturday to vote.

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The state election on October 31 will be the second time Queenslanders have voted this year – during a pandemic, no less – following the council elections on March 28. For voters in the state seats of Currumbin and Bundamba, it will actually be the third time, after local by-elections were held on council election day following the retirement of local MPs.

In a landmark change for a state election, the commission will allow early voting on the Saturday before polling day, having effectively trialled the Saturday pre-poll session for council elections. On March 21, the week before council polling day, some 68,000 of 1.2 million early council votes were lodged, though only a small proportion of the 3.3 million registered voters (turnout was approximately 76 per cent). Pre-polling is normally a weekday event.

On Monday, New Zealand delayed its September election by a month due to the re-emergence of COVID-19. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was adamant the state election would still be held on October 31, following extensive planning by the commission and Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath.

However, the proportion of votes cast early is likely to be significant. On Monday, it also emerged 28 per cent of eligible voters in the Northern Territory election on Saturday had already cast their votes, with the busiest day last Saturday – a trend likely to be reflected in Queensland.

Queenslanders can start voting from October 19, with about 200 early voting centres to be opened across the state, including for the new Saturday session.

Griffith University political commentator Paul Williams said pre-poll voting was already increasing before the pandemic and would continue to do so amid concerns over large gatherings.

At the last state election, about 25 per cent of Queenslanders lodged pre-poll votes and another 700,000 voters chose to mail it in, with more than a third not turning up to polling booths on election day.

“The parties are painfully aware of this rapid shift and have adapted campaigns accordingly,” Williams said.

Williams recalls how, in the last campaign, the Liberal National Party led by Tim Nicholls made major announcements early, rather than rely on a late swing, and Labor followed suit. This is in contrast to previous last-week tactics, such as the statewide blitz by Labor’s Anna Bligh in 2009.

“So, we can expect the majors to both make major announcements between the issuing of the writs and the opening of pre-polling,” Williams said.

“That will be accompanied by big advertising.”

Labor has already ramped up the social media campaign, around Annastacia Palaszczuk as leader, while the Premier used a weekend event to announce Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew would run for the party on the Gold Coast.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington today pledged to upgrade the Warrego Highway between Toowoomba and Ipswich as part of its $1bn infrastructure package.

Williams said the minor parties did not have the campaign resources to compete on advertising, and noted that the Greens had instead opted for more door-knocking in inner-Brisbane seats.

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