Australians who will be overseas on Saturday 2 July 2016 can still have their say in the Australian federal election to be held on that date.
Voting by Australians who are overseas at the time of the federal election is not compulsory. Australians who are not in Australia on election day won’t be fined if they don’t vote. If they don’t, however, they should notify the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) that they are overseas by completing the overseas notification form available on the AEC website: www.aec.gov.au.
To be able to vote, clients must be enrolled and their details must be up to date. They have one week to do this – the deadline is Monday 23 May.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises:
To check you are enrolled to vote, check now at www.aec.gov.au/check.
If you are not enrolled to vote or if you need to update your address details, you can complete an enrolment form online at www.aec.gov.au/enrol.
You might be able to vote before election day in Australia before you travel overseas. Locations and times will be available on the AEC website from 12 June 2016: www.aec.gov.au
Otherwise, you will be able to vote one of two ways:
- by applying online for a postal vote; or
- by attending an Australian diplomatic mission overseas to cast an early vote.
Lodging a postal vote does not require you to attend an Australian diplomatic mission overseas. This means you can avoid any queues and delays that may result from the strict security arrangements that are in place at most Australian missions. Online applications for a postal vote are available on the AEC website at www.aec.gov.au. Apply now so there is enough time for your ballot papers to be sent to you. Your application for a postal vote must be received by the AEC by 29 June 2016.
Early voting will be available at a number of Australian Missions from 20 June. A limited number of Australian missions may also be open on election day (Saturday, 2 July). Voters should check directly with the mission closer to this date for opening days and hours and specific requirements to gain entry to the premises.
Voters will need to know which Australian address you are currently enrolled at in order to be issued with the correct ballot papers for your electorate. Some diplomatic missions will have computer terminals available for voters wishing to check their enrolment details via the AEC website prior to voting. Not all missions will have this facility, so voters are advised to check with the mission before they arrive. Alternatively, you can check now at www.aec.gov.au/check
Just 22 of the world’s 196 countries have compulsory voting. That’s about 11%. The 22 are Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Congo, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Honduras, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, Nauru, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Singapore, Thailand and Uruguay.
Australia introduced compulsory enrolment for federal elections in 1912. Voting is not compulsory in most other democracies, including Britain, Ireland, Canada, the US, France, Germany and New Zealand.
Australians can be fined (usually AUD 20) if they fail to vote in the federal election, but not if they are overseas at the time.
Written by Peter Needham