The Voice referendum will have only one question

The Voice referendum will have only one question

What was claimed

The verdict

There will be two questions in the upcoming Voice referendum.

False. There will only be one question: to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the First Peoples of Australia by enshrining a Voice to Parliament in the constitution.

By Renee Davidson

Opponents of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament are spreading misinformation about the upcoming referendum’s electoral process, claiming that the government is setting up a “trick” by including two differently weighted questions on the ballot paper. 

In a message copied and pasted in dozens of Facebook posts, it is falsely claimed that Australians will be asked to vote on two questions at the upcoming referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Facebook post with text and red cross over the image A Facebook post falsely claims the Voice referendum will pose two questions.

“BE AWARE,” the message begins. “The Government has actually set up a ‘Trick’ in the Referendum to come for ‘The Voice’.” 

It goes on to say that there are two questions, with the first question on Indigenous constitutional recognition weighted more than the second question, which is not detailed in the message. 

“SO  - If you tick yes to the question of ‘do you recognise the indigenous people?’ This tick will override your NO vote for the other question,” the message says. “Tick NO to both questions. Also do it in PEN and NOT with the pencil they will provide you with.”

“Dangerous times ahead folks,” the message concludes. 

The spread of this message on social media comes on the heels of a controversial video created by a No campaign group that made headlines in early August following claims it had used an AI generated character that depicted an Indigenous person. But the group says the character was intended to reflect Australia’s multicultural society. 

The video, created by anti-Voice group Constitutional Equality, begins with overlaid text that reads: “THE REFERENDUM QUESTION DESIGNED TO TRICK?”

The AI character narrating the video claims that there are “two parts” to the one referendum question: recognition of First Nations peoples and establishing the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. 

Words behind the AI character read: “TWO QUESTIONS?”

“Kind of weird isn’t it? I mean, how can we accurately answer two concepts with only one ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. What if we agree with recognition and not Voice?” the character says.

An man in black top stands in front of the words "Two questions?", with the site address An anti-Voice video uses an AI-generated narrator standing in front of the words "Two questions?"

But the claim that there will be two questions in the referendum is false.

Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) spokesperson Evan Ekin-Smyth has previously told RMIT FactLab that on referendum day there will only be one question

“The referendum in 2023 will have a single question, a single box, and people will vote either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to that one question,” Mr Ekin-Smyth said. 

That question, which was formalised after being passed by both houses of Parliament on June 19, is: “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

The proposed amendment to the constitution would recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the First Peoples of Australia and establish a Voice to provide advice to the government on matters relating to Indigenous peoples. The Voice would not have legal powers to enforce its recommendations.

In regard to the Facebook message warning against the use of pencils when voting, the AEC Disinformation Register has listed and dispelled claims that pencil marks are erased in the counting process of ballot papers.  

“Pencil marks are not erased. Polling officials are never alone with ballot papers,” the register states.

The AEC further elaborated on Twitter: “You can vote in pen if you want to, but that doesn't take away from the fact that votes in pencil don't get rubbed out. Nobody is ever alone with your ballot paper.”

This is the eighth time this year that FactLab has found opponents of the Voice have spread misinformation about the referendum’s electoral process in a bid to push the No vote. 

In May, FactLab examined claims that a delayed referendum result would allow time for the votes to be rigged and found them to be false. It also debunked claims that FactLab was being used by proponents of the Yes vote to rig the referendum in their favour. 

In June, FactLab examined claims that the referendum ballot paper will only give voters the option to vote ‘yes’ and that “dominion voting systems” will be used to “rig” the referendum and found them both to be false. 

More recently in August, FactLab debunked claims that the referendum is illegal, that it will include a second question on whether Australia should become a republic and that if you boycott the referendum, your vote will automatically be counted as a Yes vote.


The verdict

False. In the upcoming referendum, Australians will be asked to vote on only one question: whether to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the First Peoples of Australia by enshrining a Voice to Parliament in the constitution. There will be no second question on the ballot paper.

25 August 2023


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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.