Kooyong voters confused by Ryan voting cards ‘could be the difference between winning and losing’

Monique Ryan’s how to vote card has caused some confusion at the ballot box.Credit:moniqueryan.com.au

“A vote is considered informal on the ballot paper of the House of Representatives if a voter has only marked a box with the number ‘1’ and left the rest of the boxes blank,” the spokeswoman said.

Although Ryan’s how to vote card does not mark each box, it does contain a message – written in red and marked as “IMPORTANT” – that reminds voters to assign preferences. But some voters seem to absorb the ballots visually and miss the written message.

ABC election analyst Antony Green said independents, including Indian MP Helen Haines and former New England MP Tony Windsor, did not specify preferences on their ballot papers. There was no evidence of a higher than average number of informal votes in their seats.

He said, however, that it is a potential problem for independence if voters were not clearly informed, both on how to vote for the card and orally by volunteers at the polling stations, that all boxes must be marked.

“Independents really have to take his into account. They have to make it extremely clear that voters have to number all the boxes,” he said.

Four treacherous volunteers in Kooyong told Age they heard voters suggest that they voted for Ryan without checking any other boxes. An activist said it was difficult to judge how many people made the mistake because some may not have realized they had cast an invalid vote.

“It can be as few as a couple of hundred, or it can end up in the thousands. We do not know,” said one.

Since finding out the issue, dozens of Ryan volunteers at Kooyong’s early voting center in Hawthorn have been tasked with prioritizing informing voters about ticking each box. Age observed Ryan campaigners who diligently performed this task on Friday.

The thousands of strong campaign teams that say it has knocked on more houses in a constituency than any Australian political apparatus in history have explored alternatives to address the problem.

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The options included printing out a group of how to vote cards with random preference distribution, which could be laminated and left to the voters as they enter the polling booths, before being returned to a volunteer.

Another option was to copy Climate 200-supported independent in Wentworth, Allegra Spender, whose ballot paper has a question mark in her opponent’s drawers. A source who campaigned with Spender last week said several voters indicated that they did not number each box.

A passionate supporter of Ryan, the former The Royal Children’s Hospital’s head of neurologyentered the candidate’s campaign office in a state of agitation after realizing that they had only marked one box.

Zoe Daniel, a journalist who became an independent candidate for Goldstein in the south-east of Melbourne, said her volunteers reminded people to fill in each box. “They appear to have received the message,” she said in a written statement.

Australians have had to number every square in the House of Representatives election since World War I, Green said.

In South Australian elections, ballot papers are still counted with only one box filled in as the parties decide where to send preferences. In NSW state elections, voters are required to choose only one candidate.

Monique Ryan's supporters gathered outside the old pub on Saturday where her mural was painted over.

Monique Ryan’s supporters gathered outside the old pub on Saturday where her mural was painted over.

About 5.5 percent of voters in the 2019 election incorrectly completed his vote in the lower house. Green expected this to rise on May 21 as a larger number of candidates would lead to more mistakes. About a third of the informal ballot papers are those that have only a “1” marked.

On Saturday, Ryan’s supporters flooded the Kew Junction site, where a Ryan-themed mural was painted over after Building owners claimed on Friday that a permit was never granted. Ryan’s campaign disputes this.

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