Survey’s flaws are starting to surface
Concerns are growing over the inadequacies of the same-sex marriage postal survey after ballots were reported damaged, stolen, sent to the wrong address and even advertised for sale online.
At least seven apartment blocks in suburban Canberra had their marriage ballots damaged after they were left out in the wind and rain at the weekend, and one person has taken to online auction site eBay to try to sell their form for $1500.
Liz Allen, a demographer and postdoctoral fellow at the Australian National University, said it was in no way surprising that people were taking advantage of the “highly flawed” mode of data collection.
“There are so many opportunities for people to take advantage of this process,” Dr Allen said.
“That comes because it’s worth so much. It’s worth so much to people on both sides of the debate that the survey itself has become a bargaining tool.”
The eBay seller asked potential buyers, “What is the plebiscite worth to you?”, and said they would donate some of the proceeds to charity.
“The reason I’m selling my vote is because either way I don’t care but thought there are people who do,” the advertisement read before it was taken down.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has said it is working closely with online sites such as eBay and Gumtree, with the sites being regularly monitored and adverts of marriage ballots being swiftly taken down.
The postal survey has led to many people nationwide becoming “trusted persons” to fill out other people’s forms if they are delivered to the wrong address or if the rightful recipient is overseas.
Flip Prior, who works in the media, said she last week received two ballots in her mailbox that were not addressed to her. Ms Prior managed to track down the mail owners online and discovered they were currently overseas.
“I said, look, it’s OK to give someone permission to tick the box, if you give me your preferences I will faithfully fill it out for you for in good conscience,” Ms Prior said. The couple agreed, and asked Prior to vote Yes for them.
Dr Allen said it was worrying people could technically fill out other people’s forms without permission, but that it wasn’t the ABS’s fault.
“The poor ABS are really stuck in a terrible situation here,” Dr Allen said.
“They were given very little notice that it was their function to collect this data, and they were instructed on the mode that it would take.
“It is a legitimate collection in terms of surveying, but unfortunately in this process we can’t correct for known bias, which means that of all the surveying methodologies, this is the one that’s least likely to indicate the true opinions of Australians.”
The ABS website says new forms can be arranged where they have become damaged or stolen but only between September 25 and October 20.
The ABS did not respond to a request for comment.
‘The poor ABS are really stuck in a terrible situation here. They were given very little notice’ LIZ ALLEN DEMOGRAPHER