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Voter suppression claims as remote Australians face election day with no polling booths

Giovanni Torre -

The Australian Electoral Commission has warned that some polling stations in regional Australia may not open on election day due to staff shortages.

Voting stations in Capricornia, Flynn, Kennedy and Leichhardt in northern Queensland, Barkey and Grey in South Australia, and Durack and O'Connor in Western Australia are at risk.

Electoral commissioner Tom Rogers said voters in a host of regional locations who had not voted early may not have a polling venue in their town on election day.

Get Up First Nations Justice Campaign director Amy Gordon said the situation amounted to voter suppression.

"The affected electorates have the highest Aboriginal vote in the country," she said.

"We have warned the Morrison government about this issue for months and nothing has been done. The AEC needs to urgently hire and fly people in if needed to fill the worker shortages as a top priority.

"This wouldn't be allowed to happen in Sydney or Melbourne."

Mr Rogers said the AEC had endeavored to fix the problem.

"Short of handing out blank cheques for work, or accommodating thousands of single-day workers in interstate locations, there is not much more we could have done so far," he said.

"We're calling on other organisations to assist as a final push, and investigating all possible staffing models including amalgamating venues."

Mr Rogers said the list of affected areas is expected to shrink as election day gets closer.

The staffing crisis come after a warning from the Northern Land Council last month as many as 40,000 adults across the Northern Territory were not enrolled to vote.

The NLC said the AEC had refused to implement direct or automatic enrolment in Territory communities, a strategy used elsewhere to enroll voters using datasets such as Centrelink, the Australian Tax Office and motor vehicle registries.

Council chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said the failure was a systemic problem.

"At the 2018 Federal election about half of the NT's Aboriginal population wasn't enrolled to vote... This situation is totally unacceptable and needs to be fixed," he said


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