With a likely double dissolution election coming up in July, it’s time to start thinking about a few things. Are you eligible to vote? Are you enrolled? How do you even enrol in the first place? Voting can be confusing, so it’s worth figuring it all out ahead of time. If you’re feeling a bit lost right now, here are some things you might need to consider:
If you’re over 18, an Australian citizen and have lived at your current address for more than a month, congratulations! You get an invitation to the super fun party that is Democracy! If you are currently 17 but will be 18 by July, do not stress. You can still enrol now so that you’ll be able to vote once the elections roll around.
You must make sure your information is correct on the electoral role before you vote. Before you go to enrol, make sure you’ve got some proof of your identity on hand. This includes your birth certificate, driver’s licence or passport. The easiest way to enrol is online, so if that works for you just go to this link and follow the instructions! Even if you’ve voted before, you should check all your details are still accurate.
You can also get a physical form at any Australia Post or Australian Electoral Commission office, fill it out and return it to the AEC either by scanning it and uploading it here, dropping it in to your local AEC office, or posting it to them. This is what I did and it was super easy! Make sure that if you’re dropping your form in to your local AEC office you bring along some ID just in case.
How can I vote?
There are heaps of different ways you can vote!
- You can vote on the day of the election at your local polling station. These haven’t been announced yet but they are usually in places like churches, community centres and primary schools.
- You can vote in a different electorate in the same state. If you are going to be away from the place you are enrolled to vote in, but still in the same state, you’ll get to cast an Absentee Ballot. Just go to the polling station most convenient for you and let an organiser know you’re an Absentee voter. If you’ll be out of your enrolled state, you can cast an early vote.
- If you aren’t able to vote on the day of the election and you’re eligible for an early vote you can do that either in person or by post.
- If you are vision impaired you can vote over the phone.
What if I’m going overseas?
Seeing as the election is likely to be during the winter break when lots of people go overseas, you might be wondering how you can possibly vote whilst you are having the time of your life in another country. Lucky for you, you’ll still be able to experience the pure joy of democracy even as you’re sipping a cocktail on a warm beach in Bali. If you happen to be leaving Australia on the day of the election, there are usually polling stations set up at airports so you can just vote there. Otherwise, you have three options:
- You can apply online for a postal vote, which can be done as soon as the election is officially announced
- You can vote at any Australian Embassy
- You can complete an Overseas Notification Form, which means you’re letting the AEC know that you won’t be able to vote and can they please not fine you
How do I know who to vote for?
If you’re not really sure how you feel about any of the parties, you’re in luck because there is a truckload of information out there, not all of it reliable, so it’s wise to take everything with a grain of salt.
A great way to learn about different policies and party values is through consuming as much media as you possibly can! Read the newspaper, watch the news, check out twitter and see which ideas you agree with and which you don’t. Be wary that a lot of news outlets are pretty biased, so check out a few different sources before arriving at an opinion.
Another great way to figure out what the hell is going on with our, at times, incredibly confusing political climate is by talking to people! Ask people how they feel about things, see who your friends and colleagues align with and see how other people who share your views are planning on voting. Alternatively, you might not want to discuss your vote with anyone, and that’s ok too.
Also, because the budget was announced earlier in the week all of the main parties have been discussing that and how they feel about it all. It’s a great idea to check out all of their media to see what they’re saying – even Facebook! If you want to find out what was actually put forward in the budget announcement, and whether or not you’ll benefit from it, the ABC has put together this nifty guide that has little explanations of everything.
What happens if I don’t vote?
In Australia, voting is compulsory for anyone who is eligible to enrol. Once the AEC figures out that you haven’t done either or both of those things, you’ll get a nice letter in the mail asking that you provide a good excuse or pay a $20 fine. If you don’t provide an excuse or pay the fine within a certain time frame, or if you outright refuse to pay the fine with no excuse, you could get a court order.
If you’re still not sure how to go about any of the steps involved in voting, the Australian Electoral Commission website will have answers to most of your questions. Otherwise, you can always find a more qualified adult who has already lost their voting training wheels to lend you a hand and show you how things are done.