Voters will be asked just one question at the voice referendum.
Voters will be asked just one question at the voice referendum. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS

One simple answer to five questions claim

Kate Atkinson July 5, 2023
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

There will be five questions asked in the voice to parliament referendum.

OUR VERDICT

False. There will be one question.

Social media users are claiming that voters will be asked multiple questions in the upcoming referendum on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice.

This is false. The referendum will ask one question about amending the constitution to establish a body called the voice. 

The claim has spread widely on social media, with examples seen here, here, here and here

“There is 5 questions in the referendum, we have to vote NO for all 5. If we vote yes to just 1 question, it counts as a yes vote,” one post (archived here) said.

There'll be one question at the referendum
 Various posts across social media feature the claim. 

“Pass on to all apparently there will be five boxes to mark on the voice referendum. All have to be marked with a NO and if you only mark one box it will be taken as a yes vote. If this is true another dirty scam trick to get it pushed through,” another user said (archived here). 

In March 2023 Prime Minister Anthony Albanese unveiled the referendum question and proposed constitutional amendment, which were approved by parliament with the passing of the Constitution Alteration Bill in June. 

The question asked at the referendum will be: “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

An example of what the ballot paper will look like can be seen here

The proposed amendment, which will be added to a new section at the end of the constitution if the ‘yes’ vote is successful, recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first peoples of Australia and states there shall be a body called the voice which may make representations to the parliament and executive government on matters relating to Indigenous people. 

It also gives parliament the power to make laws relating to the voice, including its composition, function, powers and procedures. 

An Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) representative confirmed that there will only be one question asked at the referendum. 

“The Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) bill 2023, was passed by Parliament last month, which contains a single proposed change to Australia’s Constitution,” they told AAP FactCheck in an email.

“If the Parliament wished to propose multiple questions at a referendum, it would need to pass multiple Constitution Alteration bills. This is what occurred in 1999, with the passage of separate Establishment of Republic and Preamble bills.”

Even if multiple questions were being asked, leaving a box blank would not mean the vote is added to the ‘yes’ tally.  

The AEC
 The AEC has been tasked with running this year’s referendum. 

“Formality for these ballot papers is treated on a per question basis ÔÇô so if a person wrote ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ in the box for the first question (a formal vote) but left the box for the second question blank (an informal vote), the vote would be admitted for the first question but not the second,” the AEC representative said. 

“The result of the referendum is based on the number of formal votes cast. Informal votes do not count towards a referendum result. Like voting informally for an election, all an informal vote will accomplish is to have your vote excluded from the count.”

The proposed change to the constitution must be approved by a double majority – a national majority of voters from all states and territories, plus a majority of voters in at least four states. 

The AEC is also debunking claims relating to the voice referendum process via its disinformation register.

The Verdict

The claim that five questions will be asked in the upcoming referendum is false. 

The referendum will ask one single question about altering the constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first peoples of Australia by establishing a body called the voice. 

Leaving the box blank does not mean the vote is counted as ‘yes’. It will be considered an informal vote and not counted towards the referendum result.

False ÔÇô The claim is inaccurate.

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