By ERWIN CHLANDA
Canberra spent millions encouraging voter enrolment for the Referendum but the splurge failed to increase the usual poor numbers at the ballot box in Lingiari.
Barely half of the 80,061 people enrolled in the huge electorate turned up to vote in the Voice poll, just 44,476 of them.
Voter turnout thus fell way short of enrolment, which, at 91.7% the Australian Electoral Commission boasted was a record, up from 89.8% at the 2022 Federal election.
But more people voted in 2022 than on October 14 and via post, notwithstanding that the Referendum, seeking support for an advantage for Indigenous people in terms of recognition and a Voice to Parliament, was particularly relevant to Lingiari which has an Indigenous population of some 25%.
Yes voter and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, with Opposition support, funded “a comprehensive communication campaign for the referendum – as we do for every electoral event we conduct,” according to Geoff Bloom, Territory Manager of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).
“It is a multi-million dollar campaign in total with all Australian voters as the target audience but segmented of course into focus areas like youth, Indigenous Australians, Australians in remote communities, culturally and linguistically diverse Australians etc.”
Mr Bloom did not disclose the amount spent, despite a request from the News.
The urban centres in Lingiari have a significant proportion of Indigenous residents, while voters served by the remote polling teams would have been overwhelmingly Indigenous, and certainly in the remote areas the Yes vote was in a clear majority.
The AEC did not provide details by community of remote area enrolments, nor for the votes recorded by 22 Remote Mobile Teams which provided polling places in 23 locations. The News is seeking further information.
All we could work out so far was that 12,177 people voted at Remote Mobile Teams locations, 8948 (73%) Yes and 3229 (26%) No – virtually the reverse of the national figure.
Yes campaigners claim Aboriginal voting was high.
Why Lingiari enrolments overall didn’t translate into corresponding number of votes being cast remains a question still looking for answers.
“Part of our communication included community visits and education sessions run out of our Indigenous Electoral Participation Program,” says Mr Bloom.
“This is an ongoing body of work as part of a program that has been around for 10 plus years, rather than event-specific.
“In addition to communication, we also looked at our direct enrolment processes to see how this could be expanded further into remote communities, and it was.
“Forms of identification were also expanded to include Medicare to make online enrolment more accessible to people without a driver’s license or passport.
“All this work has been very successful with estimated enrolment of Indigenous Australians being more than 90% for the first time in Australia’s history.”
These were the votes in Alice Springs (Yes and No, respectively, so far):- Town Council 687/765), Mbantua Building (2746/3414), Braitling (274/402), Gillen(378/679), Ilparpa (58/105), Larapinta (172/272), Sadadeen (297/302).
PHOTO AT TOP: The Yes campaign in Alice Springs bombed. Yes23 online promotion.
UPDATE 7am October 28
While in the burbs the voting behaviour from polling station to polling station dominates BBQ chats, the situation out bush is much less clear.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) does not have access to how people vote (yes/no) at a community level, according to Geoff Bloom, the commission’s Territory Manager.
“This comes as a result of Remote Mobile Teams using the same ballot boxes as they travel between communities. There is no way to verify where each yes or no vote originated from.
“The most detailed level of information on yes/no numbers is at the ‘team’ level, and this information is available via the Tally Room.”
There were 20 Remote Mobile Teams (RMTs) in Lingiari taking votes in more than 200 locations.
Remote Mobile Team 10, for example, visited nine locations, including Lajamanu, Kalkiringi, Dagaragu, collecting 388 votes (266 Yes, 119 No and 3 informal).
Team 12 visited 13 locations, including Yuendumu, Papunya and Hermannsburg, collecting just 408 votes (299 Yes, 108 No and 1 informal).