For the past month, Australians have been casting their ballots in a nonbinding-yet-divisive survey to advise their elected leaders on the question: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” As an overseas Aussie who cares deeply about the issue, I wanted my say. So, one day a few weeks ago, I entered my personal details into a designated government website and received a “Secure Access Code” that allowed me to cast my vote online. When I checked my mail later that day, however, I found a letter from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the agency administering the survey. This letter contained a different Secure Access Code. My reporter’s red flag flew up immediately. Was it possible, I wondered, that the system would validate both of these codes and let me vote twice? That would be a potentially troubling situation, because if I could do it, then others could, too. I had to find out.
Lo and behold, both codes were accepted, and I was allowed to cast a second ballot, receiving the same message as before: “Thank you. Your response has been submitted.”
Such a glitch, I realized, could throw yet another wrench into a campaign that’s already bizarre and bitter—and there’s still a month left to go. Since the vote was announced, Australia has experienced an outbreak of homophobic violence, “No” ads warning of cross-dressing kids, and a culture war over rugby pitting American rapper Macklemore against a former prime minister. Adding to the mayhem is a convoluted voting process involving a mixture of snail-mail and electronic balloting that experts say is far from ideal.