AUSTRALIANS could be forced to cast votes twice in the space of a month - in a federal election and a referendum - if new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd chooses to bring the current poll date forward.
The referendum to recognise local government in the Constitution is scheduled to be held on the same day as the federal election, September 14, which is earliest it can be staged.
For the referendum to be held on the same day as the federal election, Mr Rudd would have to stick with September 14 or a later date.
As of Friday he had not confirmed which way he planned to go.If Mr Rudd brings the election forward, as many still expect, it would mean the referendum would either have to be held in its own right on September 14, at a date after that, or dumped entirely.
The cost of running a referendum would be comparable to staging a federal election.
The bill for the 2010 federal election was about $100 million.
The last stand-alone referendum, held in 1999, cost taxpayers $66 million.
As for not holding the referendum, there is precedent - on three occasions referendum bills have been passed by the Parliament without a vote ever taking place.
Under the Constitution a referendum can be held two months after the passage of the bill, and no later than six months.
But the Australian Electoral Commission's timetable is slightly different.
"The earliest it can be held is two months to the commencement of voting, which includes early voting and polling day," an AEC spokesman said.
"So the interaction of the various acts and constitutional requirements would be two months plus the 18 days of early voting."
APN Newsdesk made numerous attempts to contact the Australian Local Government Association for comment.
Meanwhile, the group running the "no" campaign has called on Mr Rudd to abandon the referendum, seizing on polling showing the referendum was on track for defeat.
A Morgan poll released this week showed only 47% of Australian were intending to vote "yes", with the majority intending to vote "no" or undecided.
It came after a Morgan poll earlier in the month showed 53% of Australians were intending to vote "yes".
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