Tuesday, 12 February 2019

NORTHERN Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has taken the gloves off in a battle with the independent NSW Electoral Commission to keep four rural voting booths open in his electorate, in the lead up to the 23 March poll.

Yesterday Mr Marshall made an urgent written plea on behalf of the affected communities to the Commission to reverse its decision to close the Yetman, Croppa Creek, Garah and Chandler (Wollomombi) booths for the State election. This would be the first time voters in those communities have not had a local pooling booth at a NSW election.

The closure would require locals to drive up to a 120 kilometre round trip to their nearest booth to cast their vote.

An exasperated Mr Marshall said he was only made away of the Commission’s “quiet” closure of the booths when contacted by a local who had tried to sign up to work at their local polling booth on election, as they had done for the past few elections.

He labelled the Commission’s decision to close the four booths and open a new booth in Gilgai, 11 kilometres from Inverell (where there are three booths already), as “bizarre and inexplicable”.

“I’ve seen some doozies in my time, but this one takes the cake,” Mr Marshall said. “There is simply no logic and no consistency to this decision.

“In the past, the Commission has looked to close booths that have very small turnout of voters or are very close to another polling booth, but none of these fit that description and in fact the Commission has left open several other booths in the Northern Tablelands which have consistently had smaller turnouts than the four they have slated for closure.

“Then to open a new booth, at the same time, so close to Inverell makes no sense whatsoever.

“When you have many people in rural areas hand feeding stock and watering every single day, requiring them to drive up to 120 kilometres just to vote, when they haven’t in the past, is not fair. It could mean many locals simply don’t vote and get fined because it’s too far to go.

“We live in a country where everyone’s vote counts the same as the next person’s but in my view this decision, made by far away city bureaucrats, is unfair and must be reversed.”

Mr Marshall said he’d already taken dozens of calls from upset locals unsure what they will do.

“We’re simply asking for a fair go from the electoral commission – to ensure everyone in the Northern Tablelands has an equal opportunity to cast their ballot on 23 March, regardless of who they vote for,” he said.

“Leave these booths open and let all people across the Northern Tablelands continue to participate in the democratic process.”

Details on each of the booths to be closed/opened by the NSWEC:

Booth 2011 State election voter turnout 2015 State election voter turnout Round trip to nearest booth
Yetman 92 111 North Star 120km or Ashford 104km
Croppa Creek 70 90 North Star 62km
Wollomombi 104 87 Ebor 64km
Garah 108 84 Boomi 89km or Ashley 64km
* Gilgai n/a n/a Inverell 22km
* new booth

Two booths remaining open:

Booth 2011 State election voter turnout 2015 State election voter turnout Round trip to nearest booth
Toomelah 44 30 Boggabilla 32km
Kingstown 78 80 Uralla 91km

MEDIA: Adam Marshall 0429 440 054

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