With Australia’s first federal election during the pandemic set for May 21, alternative ways to vote are more relevant than ever.
But the Australian Electoral Commission wants Australians to treat these options as a last resort.
“Elections are absolutely intended to be in-person events, [but] other voting options are available to those who are unable to vote on the day,” a spokesperson told The New Daily.
“Early voting will be available from Monday, May 9, and postal vote applications will be open until 6pm on the Wednesday before polling day (May 18).
“Up until that deadline, postal voting is the most appropriate emergency provision for COVID-affected individuals, and the first option for those who can’t make it to a polling place or early voting centre.”
What if I’m isolating with COVID-19?
People who are isolating on election day due to COVID-19 will be allowed to vote over the phone as an “emergency provision”.
Previously, this service was only available to people who are blind or vision impaired.
“Telephone voting will be limited in the eligibility criteria to COVID-affected individuals – only if health directions mandate them to be isolated and only for the last three voting days in the election,” an AEC spokesperson said.
Details about how to access this service will be made available closer to the day.
But it could still come under some strain.
“Voters accessing the telephone voting service should be prepared for potentially long wait times,” the AEC spokesperson said.
What if I’m out of town?
Early voting and postal voting are two straightforward options if you won’t be in town on election day.
Early voting centres across the country will be announced once the list of candidates has been finalised.
These early voting centres are due to open on May 9.
If you’re already away from your electorate, or far from a polling place, you can also apply for a postal vote from now until 6pm on Wednesday, May 18.
The AEC will send you a ballot and a return envelope, which needs to be filled out on or before election day.
What if I’m overseas?
Voting is not compulsory for Australians who live overseas, but it’s still encouraged.
Australians abroad must specifically enrol as overseas electors.
Voting centres will be set up at a handful of important embassies, consulates and high commissions around the globe.
These will be announced closer to the date.
But the AEC expects that Australians overseas will have to vote by post.