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Northern Territory

Sep 18, 2017

I could’ve committed voter fraud in the marriage equality postal vote

Bob Gosford received three marriage equality voting forms in the mail, where he should've only received one. What would you do in his situation?

On Thursday last, I went to my post office to check my mail and noted, with some surprise that there were three same-sex marriage postal survey envelopes inside. One was addressed to me, the others to a married couple — I’ll call them the Smiths — who had been previous tenants of my post box.

Over the past few years that I’ve rented this post box, I’ve received enough of the Smiths’ mail — the junk mail I throw in the bin, the rest I would take the Elvis option and readdress as “Return to Sender — not at this address” — sufficient to work out what the Smiths did with their lives: they’d run an auto-service business, had an interest in wine, guns and mail-order junk, had various superannuation, bank and insurance accounts and received birthday and Christmas cards from friends.

From time to time I’d wonder whether the Smiths had just dropped off the planet, assumed new identities or just forgot to organise their lives and mail. Apart from the minor annoyance of readdressing their mail, their problems weren’t mine.

[How the marriage equality postal vote will actually work]

Until last Thursday, when I picked up their two same-sex marriage survey envelopes. What should I do with them? Bin them? Readdress them back to the Australian Bureau of Statistics or maybe get a little sneaky and rip them open, tick the boxes of my choice and send them off?

In the past, when faced with such a dilemma, I might have sent a note off to Dear Abby, everyone’s favourite agony aunt, on whose shoulder such moral conundrums could safely be rested.

Mindful of the delay and uncertainty that such a course would involve, I did the next best thing and asked my pals on Facebook. I’ll admit to the smallest of white lies, telling my faithful Facebook companions that I was “asking for a friend”, but the responses were, err, interesting if not scientifically valid.

Me being a person of the vague left-leaning kind, most of my friends share similar views. One wag reckoned I should “Auction the cunts!” while plenty of others went with the wholly predictable “Yes, Yes, Yes.” Another told me that “There is no proof of who filled in the survey forms. No paper trail. Who is to know? I think your friend already knows what they are going to do.”

Another saw it as my moral responsibility to act according to my own beliefs, saying “It is beholden on you to exercise their democratic rights in absentia”, while another, assuming that I would do precisely that, cautioned, “Make sure you don’t mix up the envelopes and the voting forms. They have bar codes that match voter with addressee.”

[How the postal plebiscite might skew the vote]

But, as ever, the lawyers saved the day — or dampened any enthusiasm that I might have to take matters into my own hands. A fellow learned friend reminded me of the provisions of the Telecommunications and Postal Services Act 1989, specifically sections 85R to 85ZK as found in part VIIA of that act. As this handy explainer from Sydney Criminal Lawyers notes, tampering with someone else’s mail:

“… includes interfering with mail receptacles, stealing mail before delivery and opening mail that you are not authorised to open, as well as a number of other illegal activities. There are harsh penalties for tampering with mail, including fines and possibly even a prison sentence. If you have been charged with tampering with mail or a related offence, it is a good idea to find an experienced criminal lawyer to advise you on your best defence.”

The penalties are harsh and:

“… include a maximum prison sentence of five years. Whether you receive five years imprisonment or two years imprisonment largely depends on whether you tampered with the mail with dishonest intentions or not.”

All that got me thinking … but I’ve got it sorted now and I’m happy with my decision.

What would you have done? Drop me a line.

*This article was originally published at Crikey blog The Northern Myth

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9 comments

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9 thoughts on “I could’ve committed voter fraud in the marriage equality postal vote

  1. Wayne Robinson

    I’d have recorded the details of the voluntary postal survey ballots (perhaps with a photo of the outside of the envelop), readdressed them c/o ‘Coalition for Marriage’, and then dobbed them into the ABS in case someone with the ‘no’ campaign votes on behalf of the rightful recipients (making certain that I do so anonymously, perhaps by ‘snail mail’?)

    If someone’s going to go to gaol for 5 years, then I’d make certain it wasn’t me. If someone else wants to, then that’s his decision.

    1. lykurgus

      I was going to say “jerk off on them and send them to Peter Dutton”, but yours is better.

      1. Draco Houston

        hahah, both fine answers.

  2. r o

    We were going to take the Michael Kirby option and bin them, but my partner and I now expect to give ours to our gay couple friends who are ineligible to vote.

  3. Draco Houston

    Would have popped into the post office immediately to sort it out, probably ensuring the 2 votes end up back at the ABS or destroyed on their advice. Messing with someone’s vote in an election is a dick move, in my opinion.

  4. Dog's Breakfast

    I wouldn’t be too concerned about it ethically, whichever way you went.

    There will be heaps of people who will be mailing off other people’s survey forms. Most of them will be no voters, as they won’t have any ethical concerns, and I’ll be betting the no camp will have people roaming around blocks of flats and the like to look for any discarded or poorly handled electoral material.
    Yes, I know that doesn’t make it right, but given that the vote is not binding on Federal pollies, many have already committed to ignoring it regardless of outcome, it shouldn’t have come to this in the first place, others will certainly be doing it, the ABS are not the appropriate government department to handle it, using postal forms is a virtual disenfranchisement anyway, postal delivery ensures that many forms will go missing or never be received, and that it is a matter of actual human rights. Need I go on – given seven wrongs led up to this point, it hardly matters if you add one more to it.

    Wear gloves or wipe for fingerprints before posting the offending items.

  5. Yclept

    Tick the Yes box then join the Liberal Party. You will then be above the law. No issue!

  6. klewso

    It’s not a vote, it’s not a plebiscite.
    It’s a non-binding, non-compulsory, $122,000,000 (? – of our money) self-indulgent flight of fancy survey, with no security, and no way of checking how accurate it is – open too and inviting corruption of process – of Turnbull’s – fulfilling an obligation to alt-right party backers in return for their continued jagged support.
    Just how accurate is the ABS “trusted” to carry it out?
    It’s hardly a serious attempt to solve this problem of inequality that affects real people?
    It’s a contemptible, sick, expensive, Limited News Party indulgence and rort/joke – at our expense.
    Return them all to sender endorsed along the lines of “This is an expensive waste of time and money; on something that was capriciously changed by Howard, and should have been decided on, in the affirmative, by our spineless parliament years ago.”

    1. Barbara Haan

      I agree, but since when have Little Johnnie Big Brows, aTonement or Abettsie Boop stood for anything other than promoting a “spineless parliament”? Money is no object so long as they can panic the electorate into supporting their ideas. They’re frightened of their own shadows. Having already voted in the SSM postal disgraceful waste of money, I’m no longer interested in listening to their whining “it’ll hamper our religious freedom to speak our minds” nonsense. Why aren’t they standing up for Muslims, atheists, gays etc. to have an equal say? In their world view, only X’nians with their heads firmly buried in the sand are allowed to cry foul.

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