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Australia live news updates: Victoria records 20 Covid deaths and NSW 13; Mark McGowan defends timing of WA border reopening

South Australia’s election campaign is about to officially get underway with the issuing of the writs for the March 19 poll.

Premier Steven Marshall is expected to visit Government House on Saturday to kick off the election countdown which also puts his administration into caretaker mode. Candidate nominations will then open on Monday, while the last day for voters to ensure they’re on the electoral roll is February 25. Early voting will start on March 7.

The South Australian Electoral Commission is expecting a significant rise in postal and pre-poll votes this year, partly due to issues surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. But it has also assured voters that going to a polling booth will be safe with masks mandatory, along with social distancing and other hygiene measures.

The commission recently released plans for those people who contract the virus or are forced into isolation immediately before polling day. They will be directed to collect a voting pack from designated virus testing sites or a site where rapid antigen tests are distributed. Those packs can then be returned by post.

People forced into isolation between March 7 and March 17, will be able to apply for a postal vote in the usual way.

Mr Marshall’s Liberal government is seeking to win a second term in office after a first term dominated by the pandemic. It currently holds 22 seats in the 47-seat House of Assembly to Labor’s 19. The remaining six are held by independents, although three of those were originally voted in as Liberals before leaving the party.

How those independents fare and who they potentially support to form a government could be crucial to the result.

The outcome of this year’s election is also clouded by a recent redistribution that has prompted a number of sitting MPs to switch seats after a significant change in boundaries.

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