As pre-polling for the Voice referendum began this week in NSW, QLD, SA and ACT, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) contacted the Yes23 campaign over “at least one” Vote Yes sign that uses purple and white colours similar to AEC 'Voting Centre' signage.
“The AEC became aware of campaign signage outside of at least one early voting centre for the 2023 referendum that could potentially mislead voters about the source of a campaign message,” the commission said in a statement.
“To be absolutely clear - the signs were erected by the Yes23 campaign, not the AEC. The signs featured the legislatively required authorisation statement. However, the signage prominently used white writing against a background that is a similar shade of purple to the AEC’s longstanding branding and were erected outside at least one early voting centre, in close proximity to the AEC’s ‘voting centre’ signage.
“This combination of using purple and white colours in proximity to AEC signage could mislead a voter about the source of the signage, and by extension, the source of the message on the signage. Accordingly, when we were alerted to this signage the AEC requested the Yes23 campaign to rectify the situation by ensuring their signs are not placed in the proximity of AEC voting centre signs. The Yes23 campaign has agreed to comply with this request.
“While the AEC has been clear over a number of years in communicating our preference that campaigners do not use the combination of colours purple and white in such a way that could be misleading, the AEC does not have any legal authority to prevent people from using particular colours. The AEC also does not have the legal authority – except in very limited circumstances - to prevent people from campaigning outside six metres from the entrance to a polling place. While AEC officers cannot remove signage that could be misleading regarding the source of the message, we expect our request to the authoriser of the signage to be complied with.”
Requests from the AEC to campaigners to adjust or rectify concerns regarding signage outside of voting centres occurs frequently at every electoral event, the commission said.
Use of the colour purple on campaign signage has been the subject of a previous court judgement summarised in a fact sheet on the AEC website.