ABS: Sellers of same-sex marriage postal vote on eBay could face jail

By @chelean on
same-sex marriage australia
Hand-written messages line at a call centre for the Yes campaign in Australia's gay marriage vote, as Australia's high court continues a hearing on the validity of a government plan for a postal vote to legalise same-sex marriage, in Sydney, Australia, September 6, 2017. Reuters/Jason Reed

Sellers of same-sex marriage votes could land in jail, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has said. The warning came after it emerged that someone was offering their ballot paper on the same-sex marriage postal survey on eBay.

The eBay seller titled their listing as “buy my votes,” saying they did not care how the survey ends, so they would rather sell their votes. The seller also promised to donate part of the auction proceeds to kids battling cancer. The listing, which had a starting bid at $1,500, has since been taken down.

“What is this plebiscite worth to you. (sic) The reason I’m selling my vote is because either way I don’t care but thought there are people who do,” the seller wrote. “Part of this auction proceeds will go to help kids battling cancer.”

The ABS, which is conducting the survey, warned that any attempt to hawk votes could land the seller in jail. It would consider any submission of a survey response bought or sold as a criminal offence.

“The offence against the Census and Statistics Act 1905 carries a maximum penalty of $2,100. The Criminal Code offence carries a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment,” a spokesman told SBS.

It has also contacted several online market places, including eBay, Gumtree, Amazon and Alibaba, to warn them of such listings. The rep said eBay and Facebook have confirmed that listing survey forms or survey responses for sale on their sites would not comply with their policies and therefore would be removed.

Same-sex marriage postal survey

The High Court of Australia confirmed the validity of the postal survey on Thursday. This means it will go on as planned. The ABS will start sending the forms starting Sep. 12.  As they will not be sent out all at once, some Australians might receive their survey forms up to two weeks from then.

The result of the marriage equality survey, which was formerly called plebiscite but was changed due to its nature, will be released on Nov. 15. Should there be a parliament vote following the survey, it still remains to be seen. The result of the survey does not require a parliamentary vote to follow. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said, however, that if the survey ended in a resounding “yes,” a vote will then be held in parliament. If it’s “no,” there would be no need to proceed anymore.