By CAITLIN CROWLEY
AN eleventh hour pitch from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to recruit polling workers has resulted in more than 7000 people putting their hands up in the last 72 hours, to ensure bush booths can open tomorrow.
Voters in sixteen areas across four Queensland electorates were being told they may not be able to cast their vote locally for Saturday’s federal election, unless they signed up to work at the polling booth as well.
The AEC put the call out on Wednesday for anyone willing and able to work at the regional and rural booths, to register their interest.
“Our efforts to engage army reservists, public servants, local councils, police services, job seekers, education departments and others will mean that many regional voting centres with no confirmed staff two days ago will now be able to open,” Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said.
The AEC had identified the Queensland electorates of Capricornia, Flynn, Kennedy and Leichhardt as cause for concern, with sixteen polling booths in those seats at risk of being unavailable for voters, with applications for postal votes already closed.
Locations desperately seeking staff included Proston in the South Burnett, Capella, Rolleston, Nebo and Glenden in Central Queensland, Hamilton Island and Kowanyama on the Cape.
“Recruitment difficulty is exactly what we advised could occur, both earlier in the pandemic and in the early stages of the election period, and why we’ve been urging people to assess all voting options,” Mr Rogers said.
“This is an unalloyed good news story of community members stepping up for democracy in a pandemic but its not at all a clear runway – that’s not how running an election in a pandemic works,” Mr Rogers said.
Now the only booths in Queensland still needing workers are Kowanyama and Kurumba.
The Electoral Commission has been recruiting for more than a year in an effort to secure the 105,000 polling staff needed nationwide.