NSW election candidates camp outside pre-polling stations to capture early votes

Updated March 22, 2019 10:43:39

Political candidates have been trying to capitalise on every vital minute to make personal contact with voters at pre-polling stations ahead of the state election.

Candidates and their support teams have spent the past two weeks camped outside pre-polling centres across New South Wales, some even going without toilet breaks to make sure they meet as many people as possible.

Just two days out from the polls 1,057,974 people had already cast their votes: 823,822 in person at early voter centres, 172,339 using ivotes, and 11,157 casting mobile votes.

That compares to around 1,145,400 pre-poll votes at the 2015 election.

In Dubbo, where former deputy premier and Nationals MP Troy Grant is retiring, Independent candidate Mathew Dickerson saw pre-polling as one of the most important components of his campaign.

Mr Dickerson believed about 40 per cent of voters would pre-poll in the seat.

“It is all about numbers,” he said.

“With significant numbers you are in the game, it’s an opportunity to talk, answer serious questions, and dispel stories.”

No toilet breaks, no sitting down

While some analysts suggested extended pre-polling was a disadvantage to minor parties and independents because they did not have enough supporters to staff voting centres, Mr Dickerson had 260 volunteers in his team, from his teenage daughter to a 93-year-old friend whom he had rostered on to 48 shifts to help out.

At the pre-poll, Mr Dickerson had tough rules for himself.

He said he would not take toilet breaks or sit down while he drank his coffee — he would stop for lunch and would only snack on nuts and fruit.

But he said he was more forgiving toward his volunteers.

“Some parties have strict rules about how to hand out how-to-vote cards. I want my volunteers to have a good, friendly experience and I share a poem with them:

Be friendly and helpful and offer my handouts to all

Smile and wave and avoid getting into a brawl

If all else fails and you’re unsure — here is my last piece of advice

It seems incredibly simple but works for me — just smile and be nice.

From the moment the Labor Party preselected a candidate, they had the importance of pre-polls drilled into them.

A spokesman said the party saw pre-polling as much more valuable than phone polling and street stalls where he said only people who wanted to talk or take a photo approached the candidate.

“When people head into pre-poll, they head in with the explicit purpose of voting and they may not have made up their mind, so here is your chance to make a good impression and present them with a choice,” the spokesman said.

‘Last point of sale’

Country Labor candidate Bryce Wilson, who is running against the Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader John Barilaro, said the most important thing he could do was shake someone’s hand.

“It’s the last point of sale in a two-year journey to raise your profile, some people come in and know what they are doing, others like to take the time and genuinely ask you questions,” Mr Wilson said.

He believed pre-polling was particularly valuable at a state level when federal politics dominated the media cycle.

He said in Batemans Bay more than 8,000 people had pre-polled, and it had been amiable between the competing parties.

“Democracy is only founded on goodwill; it is important to keep it pleasant. All big announcements are done now,” Mr Wilson said.

On the Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall is campaigning for another term for the Nationals and said the two weeks of pre-polling was vital.

“Many people are choosing to vote early, and if all the people who vote pre-poll are going away, our towns will be ghost towns,” Mr Marshall said.

“In Inverell, a town of 12,500 people, about 8,500 people can vote and around 6,000 will pre-poll, so polling day there really won’t be many people voting.”

He also saw a time soon when an election no longer hinged on one day of polling.

“I don’t think we are too many elections away from the end of polling day becoming polling period,” Mr Marshall said.

“This is why I sit on pre-poll. No matter what you do through radio or television, nothing will match the personal contact you make at pre-poll.”

All the candidates said they had easily shaken more than 4,000 hands already.

Topics: state-elections, states-and-territories, one-nation, minor-parties, democrats, alp, polls, greens, nationals, liberals, liberal-national-party, state-parliament, regional, nsw, bowral-2576, sydney-2000, dubbo-2830, picton-2571, wollongong-2500, batemans-bay-2536

First posted March 22, 2019 06:16:29

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