Voters can expect more from the State Election campaign early as record numbers prepare to prepoll or lodge a postal vote.
It is a change in behaviour that hit 35 per cent during the 2017 State Election and is expected to exceed 50 per cent this time around, according to Griffth University Senior Lecturer School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science Dr Paul Williams.
Dr Williams says people prefer the convenience of voting when it suits them, rather than waiting for polling day and lining up at a booth.
“We would have seen 40 per cent this election, with or without COVID. The Electoral Commission of Queensland is predicting over 50 per cent of people will opt for prepoll or postal votes,” he says.
“We don’t talk of polling day anymore, instead it’s an election period.
“The fact that we have so many people prepolling, will flow onto campaign strategies. We saw a hint of this in 2017, when the LNP’s Tim Nichols made major policy announcements almost immediately after Parliament was dissolved.”
The major parties started announcing big ticket promises before Parliament was dissolved, this time around, and Dr Williams expects this trend to continue in the early part of the campaign, rather than in the race to the finish.
“As soon as prepoll opens, there’s going to be a stack of committed voters voting … those that follow politics closely,” Dr Williams says.
So, instead of having one spike in votes on polling day, there will be two with a lull in between.
This change in behaviour and COVID-19 restrictions will produce a very different, and perhaps subdued campaign.
He says voters can expect some doorknocking by candidates, but perhaps not as much as usual, few or no shopping centre meet and greets, and plenty of activity on social media and on television.
When asked who he thought would win the election, Dr Williams is quick to answer.
“It’s easier to split the atom than predict this election. There’s so many moving parts in this election,” he says.
He believes one of three scenarios was likely – a Labor majority government, a Labor minority government or an LNP minority government. It all rests on seats with a margin of 0-6 per cent.
Dr Williams says there will be a group of voters grateful for the government’s handling of borders and COVID-19, and another angry about the impact it has had on their businesses and lives. The outcome of the election will be decided by the larger group.
“It will be a polarised campaign, with not a lot of votes up for grabs. Most people know who they’re going to vote for,” he says.
“We can expect a result on election night, but we might not get one. The ECQ does a wonderful job, but it’s a washing machine of preferences.”
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