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Police called in after stash of surveys uncovered

Kerry Ford was shocked and disappointed to find a stash of apparently stolen survey forms being eaten by snails in her backyard. Picture: Kerry Ford/Supplied
Kerry Ford was shocked and disappointed to find a stash of apparently stolen survey forms being eaten by snails in her backyard. Picture: Kerry Ford/Supplied

AUSTRALIANS are being encouraged to call the cops on people who tamper with same-sex marriage survey forms after a number of voters have reported dumped or stolen ballots.

People have reported finding masses of envelopes containing the forms intended for people to have their say on marriage reform, while others have been boasting about stealing ballots online.

A Melbourne mum was yesterday shocked to discover a stash of about 17 apparently stolen envelopes hidden in the grass by her daughter's cubby house.

Kerry Ford and her partner were growing concerned they hadn't received their ballots in the post while others in their areas had, and had heard some neighbours were also wondering where their forms had gone.

When she went to put something in the shed on Monday morning, she found what had happened to at least some of the votes.

"I was really upset," she told news.com.au on the discovery of more than a dozen sodden envelopes dumped in the dirt.

"It just feels like there's so many hurdles to letting marriage equality happen overall, but to see the envelopes lying there being eaten by snails was a clear sign of how many hoops there are to jump through.

"It shows that the supposed root of this, what could be the solution, is filled with its own hurdles."

Ms Ford, who is in a same-sex relationship, said she was disappointed not only in the apparent act of stealing and dumping the forms, but that it would contribute to people not being able to have their say.

"I want everybody possible to be able to vote yes," she said.

"I saw in the news today they're saying seven in 10 would vote yes, but it's not going to be that if not everybody is able to participate."

Along with Kerry's discovery, examples of envelopes being stolen have sprung up on social media.

A concerning Instagram post shows a woman appearing to boast about stealing neighbours' forms.

The woman who posted the screenshot from a group chat conversation included the caption: "So this is what my Aunty did today. #VOTENO or she'll steal your mail."

Some people have reported receiving other people's voting forms and returning them to the ABS with their preferred answer.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has been advising people who find stolen mail to report it to police.

A spokeswoman for the agency warned theft or tampering with mail is a Commonwealth offence carrying serious penalties of imprisonment of up to two years.

For victims of mail theft, the ABS has advised voters are able to request replacement survey materials.

A spokeswoman told news.com.au people should give it until 25 September to request replacement survey forms - that's when it's expected the mailout will be complete.

You can request replacement survey materials via the ABS website, or by calling the agency on 1800 572 113.

"The replacement survey will have a new barcode on it and the previous one will be cancelled and any previous response won't be counted," the spokeswoman said.

The ABS has also ensured multiple measures are in place the "ensure privacy and integrity".

"Survey packages are being sent to the addresses of eligible Australians listed on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll," the ABS spokeswoman said.

"The ABS has instituted measures to detect attempts at multiple responses to a survey form - only the last valid response will be counted."

The issue of replicating forms was raised last week when the ABS warned against posting images of survey forms online that revealed the unique barcode included in the form.

People have also reported receiving multiple ballots at their address intended for past residents who hadn't updated their electoral details.

If you receive mail addressed to your address but it is not for you or anyone who uses your address, the ABS advises you mark the envelope "return to sender - unknown at this address", before placing the envelope in a red post box, or hand it to staff at any post office."

Topics:  editors picks gay marriage postal survey

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