EXPLAINED: Australia's postal vote on same-sex marriage

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Australians have the chance to offer their opinion in a postal survey on same-sex marriage after the High Court of Australia ruled it could proceed as planned.

The court dismissed two challenges against the postal survey arguing that the government had bypassed funding laws after its proposed plebiscite was blocked.

The postal vote will now go ahead next week and run until November.

What is it, and what does it mean?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will send out a survey to Australians to give them to opportunity to vote whether they think same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in Australia.

Although the survey is non-binding and non-compulsory, which means the government will still need to vote on it once the postal results are tallied, and Australians aren’t obliged to vote if they don’t want to.

The postal vote will ask Australians: “Do you support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

To which they have the opportunity to answer: “Yes” or “No”.

Voting slips will begin to be sent out on Tuesday, September 12 and a result will declared by November 15.

Completed voting slips must be received by the ABS before 6pm on Tuesday, November 7.

Note: If you post your vote on this day, it is unlikely that it will be received in time to be included in the count, so people are “strongly encouraged” to return their vote by 6pm on October 27.

You will only be able to vote online if you are overseas, live in a remote area, have no permanent address, or are visually impaired.

All ABS packages containing the survey form will include a reply paid envelope and instructions on how to complete the survey form.

It will only accept one survey response for each eligible Australian.

The ABS has clearly stated that the survey is for genuine responses only and is not a channel for “correspondence, complaints or other communication”.

It also says that any “extraneous material” inserted in the envelope with the survey form will be destroyed and may result in the survey form also being destroyed and therefore not processed.

So — no glitter.

Who can vote?

Australians over the age of 18 who enrolled on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll before August 24 are eligible to vote in the postal survey.

And don’t worry, the ABS will keep the identity of all respondents separate from their survey responses at all times.

What if I lose my form?

Lost or spoilt survey forms can be replaced is requests are made before 6pm on October 18. Details on how to do this will be published on the ABS website when finalised.

A “Yes” result

If the postal vote delivers a majority “yes” result, the government will allow a private member’s bill to be introduced to the house in the final sitting fortnight of the year. Members of parliament will then be given a free vote, where it is expected to pass.

A “No” result

If the postal vote delivers a majority “No” result, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has said no bill will proceed.

Here’s a timeline of the key dates you need to know

    Thursday, 24 August – Electoral Roll closes for new enrolments or changes to enrolments (midnight local time).

    Tuesday, 12 September – Commencement of mailing of forms and collection period.

    Wednesday, 18 October – Requests for replacement material closes (6pm local time).

    Friday, 27 October – The date all eligible Australians will be strongly encouraged to return their form by.

    Tuesday, 7 November (6pm EST) – Responses received after this date will not be processed.

    Wednesday, 15 November – Statistics released.

NOW READ: The High Court of Australia just said same-sex marriage postal vote can go ahead

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