Democracy sausages in the age of COVID

Is this the end of the democracy sausage? Saturday will see the first post-COVID-19 election (or are we still mid-COVID?) with all its associated health concerns, safety measures and hand sanitiser by the bucketload.

Pre-poll booths have perspex screens protecting workers, every second cardboard booth sectioned off, and party volunteers preferring to point you in the direction of their respective how-to-vote cards pile rather than handing them out directly.

Not surprisingly, this byelection has seen an extraordinary number of voters using pre-polling and postal options already, even more than last year's "record" numbers.

As of Monday, June 29, around 25,000 people had already cast pre-poll votes across Eden-Monaro, 6000 of those just in Bega and Merimbula booths. In fact Merimbula has the second-highest number of pre-poll numbers in the electorate, only a handful behind Queanbeyan City.

You'd have to figure it's in response to coronavirus and a preference to avoid the booths on polling day, moreso than the usually acceptable reasons for casting your ballot early, like essential work or travel - "convenience" has never been classed as a legitimate reason even if it's not strictly enforced.

Because there were so many pre-poll votes submitted in the 2019 federal election, polling place barbecues didn't appear to be as well patronised as normally expected. Will we see them at all this Saturday?

We're also facing winter school holidays, which would usually be a time to celebrate any visitors to our region given the season - and particularly after the devastating lost summer.

However, concerns rightly abound of Melbourne travellers heading to our patch of paradise and bringing their second wave of COVID-19 with them.

NSW and Victoria didn't close the shared border during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic so there's little reason to think they would do so now. Which means it's once again up to individual and community sensibilities to prevent the virus gaining a toehold on the Sapphire Coast.

Will tourism operators heed the call to question dealings with potential clients from identified hotspots? Will we turn a blind eye to virus threat figuring it didn't hit us badly before so it's not worth worrying about now?

Or perhaps most importantly, will you be taking your own pencil with you on Saturday?

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