The same-sex marriage postal ballot is headed for a very high return rate, with an estimated 57.5% survey forms – 9.2 million – returned by last Friday.
The return rate is defying some early predictions that a postal vote would see many people not bothering to send back their ballots. The high level of engagement will add to the legitimacy of the result.
All the public polls so far suggest a victory for the “yes” side. The ballot runs until November 7.
The number released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Tuesday underestimates the participation so far, given it lags by some days. The Yes campaign has said its polling puts the return rate higher.
The ABS estimate is based on the bulk containers of returned forms, rather than a count of individual or processed forms. It does not include forms that have been posted but not yet delivered. The ABS will provide weekly updates until the ballot ends.
ABS Deputy Statistician Jonathan Palmer said: “We hope that this update will serve as a reminder to those who have not submitted their form to do so promptly if they wish to have their say.”
After the figures, both sides emphasised the importance of getting out the rest of the vote.
The executive director of the Equality Campaign, Tiernan Brady, said there was “no room for complacency and we are calling in all those who support marriage equality and fairness for all to make sure they fill in the vote and get it to the postbox”.
The Coalition for Marriage said it was encouraged by the already high turnout. But it said the statistics indicated “half the country is yet to make up its mind; this conversation is still wide open”. The No campaign would continue to encourage people to have conversations with families, friends and neighbours about the consequences of change.
A Sky-ReachTEL poll found 64.3% had sent back their ballots and voted yes, while 15.5% had returned their ballots and voted no.
The 2015 Irish referendum that endorsed same-sex marriage had a 60.5% turnout.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra