Australian Electoral Commission chiefs have warned voters they could be turned away from polling stations if they wear Yes or No T-shirts when they vote on Saturday.
The alert comes after two Indigenous elders from Ipswich, near Brisbane, say they were told they couldn’t wear their Yes shirts into the polling station.
‘With no explanation whatsoever, [the AEC official] just simply straightforward says,”You’re not allowed to have this on while you’re here”,’ said Valentine Brown.
He said he was turned away from the voting station and then followed closely by officials when he later returned in a different top.
Rhonda Collard-Spratt said she was treated like a criminal when she tried to vote wearing a similar shirt.
‘Because I was wearing this shirt, he said to me, “While you’re in the space and with that shirt on you and better behave yourself”,’ she said.
‘We are well respected elders. We were there to do a legal obligation to place our votes and we were treated with utter disrespect.’
Indigenous elders Valentine Brown and Rhonda Collard-Spratt from Ipswich, near Brisbane, say they were told they couldn’t wear their Yes shirts into the polling station
Election rules in Australia prohibit campaigning within six metres of a polling station entrance or inside, and election chiefs say wearing a campaign T-shirt to vote could breach the rules.
But AEC commissioner Tom Rogers admitted officials may have over-reacted in Queensland, but said it was also important to avoid confrontations between voters.
‘Our role is to provide a neutral place for people to cast a vote, and the Electoral Act says that you can’t campaign in a polling place,’ he said.
‘So if you are turning up and you’re wearing a T-shirt or a hat or something, and you’re campaigning in the polling place, you won’t be allowed in. It’s as simple as that.
‘But if you’re an elector, you’re just going in to cast a vote wearing a T-shirt, and you’re in and out, that should be fine.’
He added: ‘The issue is that people view this through the prism of what they want to do if they’re very proud of their No or their Yes T-shirt they want to wear it in.
‘Just remember, it’s a respectful place where everyone is supposed to be able to express a view. It’s as simple as that.’
Australian Electoral Commission chiefs have warned voters they could be turned away from polling stations if they wear Yes or No T-shirts when they vote on Saturday
The official guidelines say the rules in a referendum are the same as for elections.
‘Campaigning is not allowed inside the polling place or within 6m of the entrance,’ said an AEC spokesman.
‘If a voter wears a pin, shirt or hat with a campaign slogan into the polling place, casts their vote and leaves, then it may not be considered as campaigning.
‘However, when inside a polling venue a problem could arise if a voter is seen talking about the material or gesturing towards it.
‘AEC advice is to simply avoid any potential issue by not wearing campaign material into a polling place, or to at least bring along a piece of clothing that allows a voter to cover up.’
But they added: ‘The AEC understands that passions are often high around referendum events, and people want to proudly display their voting intentions – either way – when coming to vote.
‘Please don’t fall foul of the law. Simply wear or display campaign material outside the polling place instead.’
Valentine Brown said he was turned away from the voting station and then followed closely by officials when he later returned in a different top
They said they expected people were more likely to wear Yes or No-branded clothes for the referendum compared to a normal election.
The AEC said election workers – mostly 100,000 temporary workers recruited just for the vote – would try to deal with the situation on a case
‘Our staff will take a commonsense approach to conversations with voters regarding these matters – to either cover up or to make sure people behave appropriately when inside the polling place,’ the AEC added.
‘We have a temporary workforce of approximately 100,000 people who are everyday members of the community doing their best to facilitate a positive voting experience for Australians. Please be kind.
‘While the laws around campaigning in, or near, a polling place are the same as for a federal election, the obvious difference is the higher likelihood of people wanting to wear campaign clothing when voting in a referendum.’
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk
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