Half a million Australians haven’t signed up to vote in the May 18 federal election, with less than 24 hours remaining before the enrolment deadline.
More than 580,000 eligible voters have until 8pm on Thursday to enrol.
The worst state for citizens failing to enrol is Queensland, where it’s estimated more than 168,000 people have not registered their details.
By population share, the Northern Territory has the most people avoiding the election, with almost one in five eligible adults yet to enrol.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s Australians who live closest to the Canberra bubble who were first to register. About 98.8 per cent of the electorate had already signed up by the end of March.
Anyone who fails to vote after enrolling could be tracked down by Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and fined.
The penalty? Just $20.
With Saturday, 18th May 2019 having been announced as the date for the Federal Election 2019 it’s important that you're enrolled to vote! Have your say in the future of Australia, if you haven’t registered to vote yet head over to – https://t.co/4sjwhf06mG #Unlimited pic.twitter.com/ukPWoN3fWr
— Western Sydney Uni (@westernsydneyu) April 15, 2019
Why is the fine so low?
In Australia, you don’t have to fill out your voting form. But you do need to show up. Each election a portion of the public fails to turn up to polling booths to have their name ticked.
Perhaps it is because they are not deterred by the relatively low $20 fine for failing to carrying out their civic duties.
The fine was introduced as part of the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1918. Section 245 stipulates that failure to vote shall incur a fine, the equivalent of $20 today.
While the fine is low, failure to provide an adequate excuse for not voting could land you in court, where that figure could skyrocket.
An AEC spokesman told The New Daily it would rather remind Australians gently of their moral and civic obligations – and that it was their right to have a say in the future of the country.
“It’s the character approach,” he said.
“It’s easy to access your vote. There are so many places in this world where you cannot vote or access it easily.”
Who doesn’t have to vote?
Not many people can avoid it. Almost all Australians aged 18 and over must be enrolled and must vote.
If you fail to vote, you will likely be contacted by the AEC asking for a valid reason as to why you did not do so.
Common and valid reasons include giving birth, travelling overseas on election day, and being too sick.
It’s at the discretion of the AEC officers to determine whether you have provided a valid reason for not voting.
The AEC said it tries hard to make voting easier for those who might find it a challenge, such as the elderly and people with disabilities.
Mobile task units visit hospitals, nursing homes, remote areas and prisons to bring the ballot papers to immobile voters.
Travelling on election day?
If you are overseas on May 19, Australians can exercise their democratic right by voting at one of the 90 overseas polling stations.
A full list of voting centres overseas can be found here. There’s even one in Antarctica.
If you cannot get to one of Australia’s missions abroad or it interrupts your plans, you will be exempt from voting.
For those travelling a little closer to home and find themselves outside of their electorate on voting day, you will have to vote at an interstate voting centre.
A list of interstate voting centres has not been released yet, but keep an eye on the AEC website.
Stuck at work?
That’s not a good enough excuse for the AEC.
Early voting will begin on April 29 for those working on May 18. More about accessing the early vote can be found here.
Others who are exempt include some prisoners.
Those who will serve three or more years behind bars don’t get to vote – the logic being that people serving more than three-year terms will not be released in time to be informed by that government.
What if you’ve moved house recently?
It may have been the last thing on your list when you moved house, but you must register that change of address with the AEC. You can do that here.
It’s important to keep your address up to date on the electoral roll because who you will vote for depends on your electorate you live in.
If you’re unsure of what details you have lodged with the electoral roll, you can check here.
Overall a healthy electoral roll
The AEC believes the electoral roll is in the best shape it has ever been.
So far 96.5 per cent of all eligible voters have enrolled. Contrast that to 2010, when only 90 per cent enrolled.
“The trend is upwards,” an AEC spokesman said.
“More Australians are enrolling and showing up at the polls and we are seeing that each year, which is good news for our democracy.”
For those people still confused about how to enrol and vote, a helpful guide can be found here.
The countdown is on until 8pm.