The government has shot down claims that they may have accidentally extended 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in the marriage equality plebiscite, firmly stating that only people over the age of 18 will have their vote counted.
There have been murmurings in recent days that, in the rapid-fire process of planning and confirming the postal plebiscite, the Government may have inadvertently given young people a chance to vote.
Political commentator Stephen Murray got the ball rolling last week with a blog post, positing that since the directions for the plebiscite included surveying anyone "enrolled on the Commonwealth electoral roll at the end of 24 August 2017", and since 16 and 17-year-olds can enrol on the electoral roll (but usually can't vote until 18) they may have a claim to be counted in the plebiscite.
Could 47,000 16 and 17 year olds have a say in the marriage equality survey? Me asking questions https://t.co/v1WO1Kfj2L— Stephen Murray (@smurray38) August 11, 2017
That was followed by stories in The Australian and Junkee exploring the idea, and constitutional law experts including George Williams and Anne Twomey confirming the Government had accidentally extended the vote to young people.
Yes indeed, it appears that the govt has inadvertently extended the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds nationally in Australia for the first time— George Williams (@ProfGWilliams) August 11, 2017
The Australian Electoral Commission released a statement last week saying it was "not correct" that 16 and 17 year olds could vote. However, in the face of mounting media speculation and further experts adding their weight to the idea, acting special minister of state Mathias Cormann seemed to put the issue finally to bed on Wednesday.
"Despite that AEC confirmation, the question as to the status of 16 and 17 year olds in the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey continues to be raised by some," Cormann said.
"For the avoidance of any doubt and to make absolutely clear that to participate in this survey, Australians have to be enrolled on the Electoral Roll and be eligible to participate in a Federal Election by the end of 24 August 2017, I have issued a further direction to the Australian Statistician to make that intention absolutely clear."