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The majority of Queenslanders will have already cast their vote before the October 31 election

ABC NEWS logo ABC NEWS 18/10/2020 By Lexy Hamilton-Smith
a person sitting at a table with a laptop and smiling at the camera: Like many Queenslanders, Beaudesert cattle owners Ian and Sue Harrison opted to cast a postal vote due to the convenience. (ABC News: Anna Hartley) © Provided by ABC NEWS Like many Queenslanders, Beaudesert cattle owners Ian and Sue Harrison opted to cast a postal vote due to the convenience. (ABC News: Anna Hartley)

In an unprecedented move, around 2 million Queenslanders are expected to cast their votes early in the upcoming state election due to coronavirus safety fears.

The Queensland Electoral Commission (ECQ) said it initially expected to receive about half a million registered postal votes, but have already received at least a million.

Postal voting is no longer an option after registrations closed last Friday.

Where can I find my early polling station?

From today until Friday, October 30, voters can walk into one of 200 polling booths across the state to have their say in the future leader of the state.

ECQ chief executive Pat Vidgen said the commission had extended early polling hours to cope with the historic numbers of people expected to flood polling booths.

Extended voting hours include four late nights on Tuesday and Thursdays and a second Saturday on October 24.

You can find your nearest early voting centre or polling booth .

A tsunami of postal votes

Mr Vidgen said he was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of postal votes.

"After two days, we received 92,000 applications for postal votes," Mr Vidgen said.

By mid-last week they had hit the 745,000 mark and it was still growing.

"To put that into context, in 2017 we received in total 360,000 applications," he said.

"And in March this year at the local government election, [we] received 570,000 applications."

Adding in the 1 million early postal votes already received, that leaves about 1.3 million electors to fill in the ballot sheet on election day — just 30 per cent of voters.

What COVID restrictions will apply at polling booths?

Mr Vidgen said people were very concerned about COVID-19 and wanted to spend as little time at a polling booth as possible.

For those planning to vote on election day, the ECQ has asked people to socially distance, use provided hand sanitiser and bring their own pen or pencil to mark off their ballot.

Mr Vidgen said the ECQ was planning for all scenarios and said in the unlikely event of a lockdown due to a major coronavirus outbreak, polling may be adjourned in that area.

"If there was an outbreak throughout the state then we would need to … investigate if we could go to a full postal vote system, or need more time," he said.

Why lodge a postal vote?

Beaudesert cattle property owners Ian and Sue Harrison have opted to postal vote because they were in the high-risk coronavirus age group.

"Due to COVID-19 and isolated on a property, it is easier and safer for us," Mr Harrison said.

"It will also reduce us having to go into the crowds on polling day and fighting your way through all the stalls and all the folk who hand out the how-to-vote cards."

For Acacia Ridge mum Joy Hagan, whose son lives with autism, she prefers to steer clear of the election day crowds and cast her vote on a more calm day.

"Going to stand in line at schools or churches is not good for me, so I just go and do the pre-polling and it's a lot easier," she said.

"You hardly get people pushing papers in front of your face and it's usually a lot calmer than on election day."

Ms Hagan said she does not tune in to the election campaign as she already has her mind made up on who she will vote for.

"I've always gone for one [party] since I was 18," she said.

"I just walk straight in, mark it off and walk straight out."

How will early voting impact election campaigns?

Paul Williams, a Griffith University political scientist, said he thought postal voting and early polling would change the way parties campaign but not how people vote.

"We will see a huge surge in these first few days of pre-polling, with these voters likely to be the most tuned in," Dr Williams said.

"They're probably rusted-on voters who know what they want, for example, LNP voters determined to change the Government.

"That means parties must "front-end" their campaign with big-ticket items to catch early voters.

"We saw this a couple of weeks ago … when Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington offered up the $33 billion Bruce Highway policy — a policy that under normal [non-COVID] conditions might have been a vote-switcher.

"The old days of building slowly to a crescendo in the last week are over — every day now counts."

Dr Williams said there will likely be two peaks in the election campaign.

"The second peak will come in the last few days when each leader implores the apathetic and undecideds to support them," he said.

"That means sweeteners across a range of sectional interests."

Will the influx of early votes delay counting?

The record number of postal votes meant the ECQ was expecting the counting process to be delayed.

Mr Vidgen urged postal voters to fill out their ballot as soon as they received them and send it back straight away.

"In 2017, we had 11 per cent of the vote around 300,000 votes through the post," he said.

"Yet the final declaration after election day took 13 days, in fact on day 12 only half the seat were declared.

"And that was with only 300,000 votes [not a million]".

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