THERE can be no good reason to oppose changes to Australia's system of pre-poll voting.
Pre-polling at the Calare federal election ran for three weeks, with early voting centres open in Bathurst and Orange throughout that time.
That represented an enormous investment in staff from the Australian Electoral Commission, not to mention the cost of short-term leases at the premises.
But while the results show that early voting is popular - more than 40,000 Calare voters pre-polled this year - it's not necessarily healthy for our democracy.
The first concern is that so much can change in politics in three weeks.
Voters who cast their ballot early in the pre-poll cycle risk missing important information or announcements that may come closer to the official election day.
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It's quite possible that the candidate they voted for on day one of pre-polling is not the same candidate they would support three weeks later, but by then it's too late.
But that's really only a secondary concern.
Of much greater importance is the impact an extended pre-polling period can have on the support for minor parties and independent candidates.
For all candidates, three weeks of pre-polling means three weeks of trying to find volunteers to stand in the rain, hail and shine to hand out how-to-vote cards.
That's a massive task for the major parties; it's an impossible task for the minor parties.
For much of the three-week period the minor party candidates had no one at pre-polling to hand out how-to-votes and that has to hurt their primary vote.
It certainly looks that way in Bathurst, where the primary vote at pre-polling for the Nationals' Andrew Gee was 48.0 per cent compared to an overall primary vote of 44.7, and Labor's Jess Jennings picked up 24.7 per cent of pre-poll primaries compared to 22.1 per cent overall.
All five of the other candidates, including Sam Romano from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, performed worse in pre-polling than they did overall.
That means it is the major parties who stand to lose the most from shortening the pre-polling period, so it is heartening to hear Mr Gee publicly express his concerns.
He will need support from his colleagues in Canberra to bring any change to effect, but it should happen before the 2022 election.One week of pre-polling should be more than enough.
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