By Roxanne Fitzgerald
More than 30,000 people have cast their votes ahead of the Northern Territory election in what is shaping up to be a record-breaking year for early voting, figures from the Northern Territory Electoral Commission show.
But in the first three days of early voting in remote communities, trends were showing another record could be broken.
NTEC commissioner Iain Loganathan said at the close of business on Wednesday, remote mobile voting teams had visited 51 remote communities and the low turnout had been a cause for concern.
“Turnout is under 50 per cent at this stage,” he said.
“We know that some of those people will vote in another community or some of them may have opted for a postal vote, but historically if you look at that data those numbers aren’t substantial.
“The reality is if a community member doesn’t vote in their community then it is likely they will not vote at all.”
Combined, those 51 communities have a total of 3,801 people on the electoral roll, but only 1,856 had cast their vote.
In Kaltukatjara, a remote Indigenous community southwest of Alice Springs, 272 people are on the roll, but only 85 voted, Mr Loganathan said.
Lost in translation
Participation in the bush has been an issue for as long as NTEC has been conducting elections in the Territory, Mr Longanathan said.
“There have been a lot of late funerals due to COVID-19 and restriction of movement…there have also been a few deaths in communities, but we’re trying to work around that and still provide a voting service,” he said.
Despite efforts to get the message across, the importance of participation has not translated.
Initiatives like advertising in language, engaging with radio hosts to broadcast information, text message reminders and creating videos for social media have not yet broken the stretch of low voter turnout.
“We’re going into larger communities next week and we are hoping that trend will reverse, and those numbers will improve,” Mr Loganathan said.
“We know from data that if people are not voting in their late teens and early 20s, they are less likely to vote in their 30s.”
NTEC NT election voting data
At 5pm on Friday 31,502 people or 22 per cent of eligible NT electors had cast their vote.
There were 6,133 who cast their votes on Friday, taking the overall total to 31,502.
The total number of votes cast in each electorate after day five of early and
remote voting are: Arafura 378; Araluen 1,125; Arnhem 522; Barkly 1,725; Blain 1,407; Braitling 1,176; Brennan 1,502; Casuarina 1,418; Daly 1,301; Drysdale 1,499; Fannie Bay 1,100; Fong Lim 1,011; Goyder 1,662; Gwoja 858; Johnston 1,199; Karama 1,115; Katherine 1,981; Mulka 1,216; Namatjira 1,029; Nelson 1,659; Nighcliff 1,148; Port Darwin 1,272; Sanderson 1,276; Spillett 1,579; Wanguri 1,344.