Voters are getting in early at the Gunnedah pre-poll centre ahead of Saturday’s referendum.

Almost 1000 people turned up to vote early at Gunnedah on the opening day last Saturday.

Gunnedah pre poll centre officer in charge Mark Herbert said although it was still early days in the vote, there appeared to be more people at referendum pre poll than a general election.

Some of those voting early in Gunnedah had travelled from Quirindi as no pre-poll was available in the almost 4000-strong community.

An Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) spokesperson said the location of pre-poll centres was based on a several factors.

“We can’t always secure centrally-located premises for all voters during the pre-poll period in an operation of this size, and with five weeks’ notice, where we want them,” the spokesperson said.

“The AEC chooses locations based on population size, voting habits, as well as availability of premises.

“Australia has some of the best access of all electoral processes around the globe. It is a system envied by so many. Citizen expectations in the digital age don’t always accord with a manual process like elections or referendums – it does require some planning to see where and when you’ll vote.”

The AEC also highlighted other options that have been available to residents for some time, such as postal voting.

The referendum question being put to voters is whether to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

Voters are required to write ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the ballot paper.

Jennifer from Gunnedah was among those casting their vote early on Monday. She voted ‘no’ as she didn’t think the Voice to Parliament would have much effect.

“I think Australians are very inclusive … but I don’t see how this is going to help,” she said.

Another casting their vote at Gunnedah said “there was enough division now” in society and thought the voice would lead to a greater divide. They said money spent on the referendum would be better invested in helping the homeless.

Meanwhile, another voting early also said the voice would lead to further separation in the community.

“I’ve grown up being told we are one, free country,” the Gunnedah resident said.

Representatives from the Uluru Dialogue Leadership Group visited Gunnedah last month for a community presentation about the referendum. Among them was former director general of NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Geoff Scott.

He previously told the Gunnedah Times the referendum question was simple: “for recognition in the constitution and to give a say in matters that affect us”.

“It is about having some structural change so we have some real impact, it’s the power of influence,” he said.

“There’s no power of veto, no change in our democracy, it actually works with democracy because we’re talking more about it.”

Early voting at Gunnedah PCYC will be open today 8.30am-5.30pm and 8.30am-6pm on Friday. On Saturday (referendum day), voting will be held 8am-6pm at Gunnedah PCYC,

Gunnedah South Public School, Curlewis Public School, Carroll Public School, Mullaley Public School, Boggabri Public School and Tambar Springs Public School.

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