Thousands of people have already voted in the Gippsland electorate

THOUSANDS of Gippslanders have taken the opportunity to vote early in the Federal Election, reflective of a growing trend toward pre-poll voting throughout the nation. Every day since pre-polling stations opened on April 29, hundreds of people have lined up at early voting centres across the country in the lead up to the May 18 poll.

In Sale, more than 550 people have voted early every day, with the highest number of 832 recorded on Saturday. Gippsland MHR Darren Chester said he wouldn’t be surprised if up to 50 per cent of Gippslanders cast their vote before election day.

“As of 9am last Friday, a total of 16,612 voters had cast their ballot in Gippsland,” he said.

“More than 5400 have been lodged in Sale.”

By Sunday, that number had jumped to almost 7000. In Latrobe, where pre-polling opened a week later than Sale, more than 5000 pre-pollers had cast their vote by Sunday.

While voting is an important feature of democracy in Australia, Australian Election Commission statistics show that not all Australians can, or want to, vote on election day.

It is expected that close to five million people will vote early in this election. In 2016, more than three million pre-poll votes were cast out of a total of 13.5 million votes.

At the 2007 federal election which resulted in Kevin Rudd taking on the leadership, more than two million of the 13.3 million votes issued were early votes, with about 1.1 million pre-poll votes and 830,000 postal votes issued.

At that election, home division pre-poll votes issued accounted for around 60 per cent of total pre-poll votes issued. Australia now has the highest proportion of eligible voters on the electoral roll since federation, with numbers at 97 per cent.