About this record
These records are from a file of the Chief Electoral Office titled '1967 Referendum: Constitution Alteration, Writ' now held in the National Archives of Australia collection.
- A writ commands an electoral officer to hold an election of referendum. It is issued by the Governor-General and includes a copy of the Bill, 'A Proposed Law' that contains, in the case of a referendum, the exact wording of the referendum questions.
- The writ specifies the dates for the close of the rolls. This is the deadline for all eligible voters to ensure they are registered to vote with the Australian Electoral Commission. The register of voters is called the Electoral Roll. (Do you know the eligibility requirements to vote?) The writ also contains the dates to hold the referendum or election and the latest day for the return of the writ.
- As per Section 128 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900, any changes to our Constitution can only be made by a double majority vote of the people through a referendum. A double majority is achieved when a referendum is passed with a vote of:
- a majority of voters in a majority of states (at least 4 of the 6 states);
- a national majority of voters (an overall YES vote of more than a 50%).
- The writ is issued to the Chief Electoral Officer and Divisional Returning Officers are appointed for each electorate across Australia, with a copy of the writ and Bill again issued to each. It is the Divisional Returning Officers' responsibility to accurately tally and record the results of the referendum within their electorate. The writ states that on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen:
"WE COMMAND YOU that you cause a proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled […] a copy of which is attached hereto, to be submitted, according to law, in each State to the electors qualified to vote for the Election of Members of the House of Representatives."
Notice that the wording of the writ reflects the wording in Section 128 of the Constitution.
- Polling day, which in Australia must be on a Saturday, is not less than 33 days nor more than 58 days after the issue of the writ.
For further information about other referendums and how elections work, visit the Australian Electoral Commission website.
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