Crowded booths upset voters

Rhonda Dredge

Docklands residents were forced to queue for up to 90 minutes at polling booths on election day, with many forced to run the gauntlet of campaigners to cast a vote.

At the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre the queue extended for more than 500 metres as more than 7000 Melbourne voters converged on the booth.

When Jared turned up to vote and saw the queue, he changed his mind and opted for Library at the Dock instead.

 

“It usually takes 20 minutes at the library,” he told Docklands News. “This time it took an hour. The queue circled the grass patch. Luckily, I didn’t have any plans.”

 

The situation was exacerbated by the fact that there were no polling booths in the CBD, sending residents on reconnaissance missions for short queues.

Electoral staff told Docklands News that staff shortages and the impact of COVID restrictions made queues move more slowly this year.

But Greens volunteer Apsara Sabaratnam said the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) should have made it easy for voters rather than more difficult.

“There were no pre-polling booths in Melbourne’s CBD and Docklands meaning residents had to travel outside of their postcode to cast a vote on pre-poll day. This lack of polling booths disenfranchises voters.”

Docklands residents can be forgiven for thinking they were the forgotten people during this election.

None of the political parties campaigned here, except for a short visit to District Docklands by the Victorian Socialists, citing the difficulty of using traditional methods such as door-knocking and posting leaflets in residential towers.

Adam Bandt from the Greens sent a letter to all Melbourne residents and this initiative might have been reflected in the 8.95 per cent swing to the party at Docklands compared to a 2.81 per cent swing overall in the electorate.

One Greens voter told Docklands News that he did research online before voting and that climate change was the key driver for him.

There were also local environmental issues, he said. “There is a lot of pollution. I see dead fish. I don’t know how clean the water is.”

Docklands workers also complained about the lack of pre-polling facilities, forcing them to cast postal votes.

“Usually, I go to an office near the Queen Vic Market,” one worker told Docklands News.

“I want a clear decision in my head. I do a lot of research before the election.”

Campaigners at polling booths can be too aggressive for some voters and the closely packed quarters at Door 1 in the Convention Centre were a case in point.

Voters were forced to run the gauntlet of campaigners for nine candidates.

The AEC responded on Twitter to a question from Docklands News about the reduction of voting options for local residents.

“Potential voting locations are carefully assessed prior to each federal election,” the AEC said. “Consideration is given to the geography of local area, population, past voting trends, nearby voting services, travel trends and accessibility.”

Yet there were three polling booths in Carlton for 3420 voters and just two for the CBD, Southbank and Docklands with 9268 voters.

The Convention Centre attracted some Melbourne 7566 voters who also had to contend with Macnamara and interstate voters staying in the CBD. •

 

Caption: Pressure on voters at the polling booth as they run the gauntlet of campaigners.

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