Electoral Pocketbook 2011 - 3 The electoral process

Updated: 15 June 2011

3.3 Electoral enrolment

The electoral roll

The Commonwealth electoral roll is the list of the names and addresses of all people who have enrolled to vote at Australian elections. You cannot vote until you have enrolled.

Eligibility for enrolment

Enrolment and voting are compulsory for all Australian citizens who are 18 years of age or over. To enrol for the first time, eligible electors complete an electoral enrolment form. It is also important that eligible electors complete an electoral enrolment form each time they move address or change their name. These forms are available at all post offices and electoral offices. The enrolment SmartForm, an enrolment form which can be completed online, is available on the AEC's website and at australia.gov.au. Electors only need to fill out one form to enrol to vote in federal, state or territory elections and local government elections.

Following legislative change in 2010, people who are 16 years old may apply for electoral enrolment, and while their name is placed on the roll, they cannot vote until they turn 18. The only non-Australian citizens eligible to vote at federal elections in Australia are British subjects who were on the Commonwealth electoral roll on 25 January 1984, at which time the eligibility requirements were altered.

The following people are not entitled to enrol and vote:

  • people who, by reason of being of unsound mind, are incapable of understanding the nature and significance of enrolment and voting
  • prisoners serving a sentence of three years or more
  • people who have been convicted of treason or treachery and have not been pardoned.

Keeping the electoral roll up to date

The electoral roll is continuously reviewed in an effort to ensure eligible people are enrolled and their enrolment details are correct. The review process takes a number of forms and includes the follow-up of change of address information obtained from external data sources, mailing to addresses which show no current enrolment, and targeted reviews of addresses by mail, telephone or field work. To encourage newly eligible electors to enrol, AEC staff attend citizenship ceremonies to collect enrolment forms. The AEC also undertakes enrolment stimulation activities targeted at young people and people who move address.

Public access to the electoral roll

The AEC provides an electronic copy of the entire roll in its offices for inspection by the public, free of charge.

Electors can also verify their enrolment details using the online enrolment verification facility on the AEC website. For the search to be successful, electors must enter their details exactly as they appear on the electoral roll.

The Act provides that Members of Parliament, political parties, approved medical researchers and public health screening programs may be supplied with confidential elector information. The AEC also provides roll information to entities that have reporting obligations under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 or entities that facilitate the carrying out of applicable customer identification procedures under that Act. Certain government agencies may also have access to confidential elector information for purposes allowed by the Privacy Act 1988. A full list of those agencies is available on the AEC website.

Close of rolls figures for federal elections 2001–2010

Close of rolls figures are finalised following the processing of all enrolment forms received by the date and time specified in the writ as the close of rolls.

Close of rolls figures
  2001 2004 2007 2010
NSW 4 204 383 4 302 122 4 495 336 4 611 228
Vic. 3 218 746 3 292 409 3 442 096 3 562 802
Qld 2 319 481 2 463 402 2 612 300 2 719 746
WA 1 200 438 1 237 349 1 312 942 1 362 177
SA 1 034 377 1 049 814 1 075 968 1 105 076
Tas. 328 829 339 589 349 788 358 567
ACT 219 876 224 896 238 742 247 659
NT 110 501 111 649 117 901 121 005
National 12 636 631 13 021 230 13 645 073 14 088 260

Number of people entitled to vote at federal elections 2001–2010

The enrolment figures in the following table show the number of electors entitled to vote in the elections. These figures comprise enrolment at the close of rolls with subsequent adjustments such as the removal of the names of electors who died after the close of rolls, and the reinstatement of eligible electors previously removed from the roll.

Entitled to vote
  2001 2004 2007 2010
NSW 4 227 937 4 329 115 4 496 208 4 610 795
Vic. 3 234 874 3 309 800 3 441 822 3 561 873
Qld 2 336 698 2 475 611 2 612 504 2 719 360
WA 1 206 422 1 248 732 1 313 201 1 362 534
SA 1 039 025 1 051 923 1 076 220 1 104 698
Tas. 331 675 342 809 349 753 358 609
ACT 221 184 227 541 238 786 247 941
NT 111 022 112 930 118 045 121 059
Australia 12 708 837 13 098 461 13 646 539 14 086 869

Special enrolment

Special enrolment arrangements are available to electors who qualify. The following services may assist electors who have special needs:

  • People who are unable to complete and sign their own enrolment form due to a physical disability may have someone help them complete their form and are able to apply to become general postal voters.
  • People with no fixed address may apply for itinerant enrolment.
  • People working in Antarctica can register as Antarctic electors to maintain their name on the roll and to make use of special voting arrangements at election time.
  • Australian citizens resident on Norfolk Island may apply for special enrolment. Enrolment by eligible Norfolk Island residents is voluntary but, once enrolled, voting at federal elections is compulsory.
  • People who believe that the publication of their address on the roll would put their own, or their family's, safety at risk may apply for silent enrolment so that their address is not shown on the roll.
  • Members of the House of Representatives can choose to enrol in the electoral division that they represent and Senators can enrol in any division in the state or territory they represent.

Overseas enrolment

People who are already enrolled to vote at federal elections and are going overseas with an intention to return to Australia within six years, may apply to register as an overseas elector. This will ensure their name is not removed from the roll and they can vote while overseas.

Australian citizens who are overseas and not enrolled, but would have been eligible if they were in Australia, are able to enrol using an enrolment form called an Application for Enrolment from outside Australia. However, they must have left Australia less than three years ago, are going to be overseas for less than six years, and intend to return to Australia.

At 26 July 2010, the following number of voters had special enrolment:

Special enrolment
State/Territory Provisional and turning 18 by polling day Itinerant Eligible overseas voter Silent Antarctic Norfolk Islander
NSW 3 200 1 348 5 593 20 658 17 55
Vic. 2 978 1 036 3 850 18 212 11 5
Qld 2 127 2 513 2 849 15 256 6 30
WA 1 017 790 1 180 13 669 3 2
SA 855 424 687 8 282 3 -
Tas. 317 273 226 1 503 7 2
ACT 269 71 1 640 2 049 1 119
NT 52 119 174 441 1 2
TOTAL 10 815 6 574 16 199 80 070 49 215

General postal voters

People who meet one or more of the conditions set out below may apply to be registered as general postal voters (GPVs) so that at election time they will be automatically sent postal voting material.

People generally may apply to become a GPV if they:

  • Live more than 20km from the nearest polling booth
  • Are in hospital, seriously ill or infirm and unable to travel
  • Are living at home, seriously ill or infirm and unable to travel
  • Are caring for a person (other than in a hospital) who is seriously ill or infirm and unable to travel
  • Are physically handicapped
  • Are serving a prison sentence or are under lawful custody or detention and are entitled to vote
  • Have silent enrolment
  • Are unable to attend a polling place because of religious beliefs
  • Are a defence member, defence civilian or an Australian Federal Police officer serving outside Australia
  • Are an eligible overseas elector.

Specific eligibility requirements are specified at section 184A of the Act.

Note that different conditions may apply for registration as a postal voter under state and territory electoral laws.

Further information on enrolment is available from any AEC office or on the AEC website.

Voter turnout

Turnout for the 2010 federal election was 93.22% for the House of Representatives and 93.83% for the Senate (see historical statistics). Turnout was calculated by dividing the sum of formal and informal votes by the final enrolment figure. The final enrolment figure is the total number of people who are entitled to vote in an election.

The AEC believes calculating turnout in this way may result in a slight downward bias due to the substantial increase in declaration votes over the past several elections. This is because rejected declaration votes are not currently included in this calculation of voter turnout. If declaration votes received but subsequently rejected, and not admitted to the count, were to be included, the final voter turnout figures for the 2010 federal election would be 95.29%.