Grave concerns have been raised over the privacy and security of people’s votes in the same-sex marriage postal survey.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has warned voters not to post pictures that reveal the unique barcode printed on each survey form because it could jeopardise the results.
Images of forms, with and without barcodes, have already been shared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, leaving the individuals who posted them vulnerable to having their vote stolen.
The barcode on the bottom right corner of each ballot paper is linked to the corresponding voter, allowing each participant to only vote once during the postal survey.
The ABS is concerned people will be able to replicate the barcode from a photo uploaded online and then post a false response.
If the faulty vote reaches processors before the actual owner’s paper, it would be counted instead as every barcode can only be registered once.
An ABS spokesman played down the threat of tampering in a statement to Fairfax Media, but cautioned against posting personal information of any sort online, including their survey votes.
“We’re instructing people to follow the instructions that come with every survey form and return the form with their preference.
“If people follow the instructions, and they take care of their own privacy, we expect the survey process will be as effective.”
Several renters around the country have also claimed on social media they’ve returned multiple same-sex marriage survey forms they’d received addressed to previous residents of the properties.
The ABS told Nine.com.au: “Anyone who receives an Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey envelope that is not addressed to someone that they know (typically due to electoral roll details being out of date) should mark the envelope as “Return To Sender”, and drop it into an Australia Post mailbox.”
They added eligible Australians who hadn’t received a form by September 25 could contact the ABS to request a replacement with a new barcode. Their original form’s barcode will be cancelled and not counted.
An Australia Post spokesperson said it was a criminal offence to steal or tamper with mail, punishable by imprisonment for a term up to 2 years.
Meanwhile, a Facebook post (later shared on Reddit) demonstrated how shining a torch light against the reply-paid envelope included with the survey reveals the marked Yes or No box on the form inside, which QNews has confirmed.
“So we have wasted $122 million on a survey where a torch can reveal the answer through the reply envelope it came with,” the user wrote.
“So any postal worker with a vendetta against the opposing side can go through and remove votes as they see fit. (Or workmate if you post from work). Bravo government.”
A spokesperson for Mathias Cormann, Acting Special Minister of State, said Australia Post had undertaken a thorough review ahead of the survey and would have additional security measures in place during the process.
“Australia Post are also working closely with the authorities to maintain the integrity of the mail network,” he said.