Yes, voting is compulsory for every Australian citizen aged 18 years or older. If you do not vote and do not have a valid and sufficient reason for failing to vote, a penalty is imposed. For further information see Compulsory Voting.
Initially the Australian Electoral Commission will write to all apparent non-voters requesting that they either provide a reason for their failure to vote or pay a $20 penalty.
If, within 21 days, the apparent non-voter fails to reply, cannot provide a valid and sufficient reason or declines to pay the penalty, then prosecution proceedings may be instigated. If the matter is dealt with in court and the person is found guilty, he or she may be fined up to $50 plus court costs.
This situation can sometimes occur when:
If this is the case, the polling official will record the correct information in an elector information report. They may also ask you to complete a new enrolment form to update your details on the electoral roll. The polling official cannot change the details on the certified list.
If your name cannot be found on the certified list, you will be asked to spell your name or to print your name on a piece of paper and the certified list will be rechecked. You may also be asked if you could be on the roll for a different name (do you have a former name?). If your name still cannot be found, or your name on the list has been marked in some way, you will be directed to cast a declaration vote.
There are a number of reasons why your name may not be on the certified list for the division:
If the address is different, you will be asked for your previous address. This ensures that it is you that is being marked off and not someone with the same name. You will also be asked to complete a new enrolment form so that your enrolment details can be updated on the electoral roll.
If you have 'silent' enrolment (you have applied to not have your address listed on the electoral roll) you will be referred to the polling official in charge for the issue of a declaration vote.
Early voting is available for electors who are unable to vote on election day. This includes electors who for religious reasons are unable to vote on Saturday 14 September 2013. The dates for early voting are to be confirmed but commence soon after the declaration of nominations for candidates standing in the election during the election period.
Mobile polling is also carried out on or before polling day. Mobile polling teams visit electors in selected hospital and nursing homes, and in remote areas.
On the green House of Representatives ballot paper, write the numbers 1,2,3,4 and so on in the boxes to the left of the candidates' names in the order of your choice. You must put a number in every box. Do not duplicate or omit any numbers. For more information see How to complete the House of Representatives ballot paper.
On the Senate ballot paper you may vote in one of two ways:
Do not duplicate or omit any numbers. For more information see How to complete the Senate ballot paper.
If you have made a mistake on your ballot paper you should return it to the polling official who issued it to you originally and ask for a new ballot paper. You will be given a fresh ballot paper, but only after handing back the one you have made a mistake on.
The provision of pencils in polling booths is a requirement of section 206 of the Electoral Act. There is, however nothing to prevent an elector from marking his or her ballot paper with a pen if they so wish. The AEC has found from experience that pencils are the most reliable implements for marking ballot papers. Pencils are practical because they don't run out and the polling staff check and sharpen pencils as necessary throughout election day. Pencils can be stored between elections and they work better in tropical areas. The security of your vote is guaranteed as the storage and counting of ballots is tightly scrutinised.
For the House of Representatives ballot paper, please see Draw for positions on the House of Representatives ballot paper.
For the Senate ballot paper, please see Draw for positions on the Senate ballot paper.
Within 24 hours after the declaration of nominations for the Senate, parties or groups may lodge a Group Voting Ticket (GVT) which shows the order in which they want their preferences distributed. If you choose to put the number '1' in one of the boxes above the line on the Senate ballot paper, all the preferences will be distributed according to that group's GVT. You may choose to vote below the line according to your own preference.
A person who holds a power of attorney for a voter is not permitted to vote for an elector, as there is no provision for proxy voting in federal elections in Australia.
Assistance is provided if the polling official in charge of the polling place is satisfied that you are unable to vote without help. The following electors may seek help:
Polling staff are trained on how to assist you.
You can nominate any person (except a candidate) to assist. This person could be a friend or relative, a Scrutineer or a party worker. If you do not nominate someone, then the polling official in charge will provide assistance.
If the polling official in charge is the one providing assistance, Scrutineers have the right to be present while the ballot papers are filled in.
If assistance is being provided by a person nominated by you, you and the nominated assistant enter an unoccupied polling booth. The assistant helps to complete, fold and deposit the ballot paper in the ballot box. In this situation Scrutineers ARE NOT allowed to enter the polling booth while the ballot paper is being completed.
If an elector requires assistance, they are able to choose the person who assists them, whether they vote at a polling place or are having a postal vote.
If the elector cannot sign, they must make a mark and it must be appropriately witnessed. The witness must identity the fact that the elector made the mark by adding the words 'his mark' or 'her mark' above the elector's mark; and printing the elector's given name(s) to the left of the mark, and the elector's surname to the right of the mark. The person acting as witness must then sign as the witness.
You may advise a polling official of the illness, death or other circumstances of another person. These details will be recorded in an elector information report. Under no circumstances will you be allowed to vote for another person. Although the polling official will record all the information you have given them, they are unable to tell you whether that person will be fined for not voting. This decision can only be made by the returning officer for that division.
Provision is made for pre-poll, postal and absent voting for electors who are unable to vote at their local polling place on election day.
AEC mobile polling teams take portable polling places to many electors who are not able to get to a polling place. Mobile polling is carried out on or before polling day. Mobile polling teams visit electors in selected hospital and nursing homes, in remote areas and prisons.
A declaration vote is when an elector makes a declaration about their entitlement to vote.
Declaration Votes are issued when the elector casts an Absent, Pre-Poll, Postal or Provisional vote. A Provisional vote applies in the following circumstances:
Ballot papers issued with Declaration Votes are inserted into envelopes and sealed. The envelope is then forwarded to the Division for which the elector is claiming enrolment. The elector has 'Declared' that he or she is entitled to vote by signing the envelope. The elector's entitlement to vote is checked by the Divisional Returning Officer from the information provided on the Declaration envelope before the ballot papers are included in the count.
You may make your mark as a signature if you are unable to sign your name. In such cases you must make your mark in the presence of a polling official acting as a witness. The polling official will then identify the fact that the you made your mark by:
A person who holds a power-of-attorney for you is NOT permitted to sign any electoral form on your behalf.
Your name and other details are required on the envelope so that your entitlement to vote can be confirmed and your name can be marked off the electoral roll as having voted. Strict procedures are used for the removal of ballot papers from declaration envelopes during vote counting to prevent any name being linked with any ballot paper and these procedures maybe witnessed by Scrutineers.
An elector who is registered as General Postal Voter will automatically be sent ballot papers as soon as practicable following the declaration of nominations for a federal election, or the issue of writ for a federal referendum.
An eligible elector only has to fill in a General Postal Vote application form once. Electors do not have to reapply. This is where a General Postal Vote application form differs from a Postal Vote Application. A Postal Vote Application is made available by the AEC on the announcement of an election and is only intended to be used for that electoral event.
An elector can apply to be registered as a General Postal Voter if they:
Application forms are available from all offices of the AEC, by phoning 13 23 26 or via this website.
Scrutineers are appointed by candidates to observe the voting, and counting of the votes. Scrutineers have the right to be present when the ballot boxes are sealed and opened and when the votes are sorted and counted so that they may check any possible irregularities. For more information see Scrutineers.
Political party workers outside the polling place may give voters a how-to-vote card, suggesting you vote for a particular candidate or party. You do not have to accept these cards. How you choose to vote is your decision. While electors may choose to follow a how-to-vote card, the final decision regarding preferences is in the hands of each elector.
Yes. Stalls can be set up outside a polling place as long as they are 6 metres from the entrance to the booth and they do not obstruct voters access to the booth.
Prior to the ballot box being used, the empty box is shown to any Scrutineers and other people present before it is closed and sealed. Numbered security seals are used to secure the ballot boxes. The seal number will be recorded by the polling official in charge and will be witnessed. The ballot boxes in use are visible at all times during the poll and are guarded by a polling official. Ballot boxes which are full remain sealed and are stored in a secure place.
Polling officials take every precaution with ballot papers in their care. Ballot papers are kept secure at all times and are never left unattended.
The Australian Electoral Commission arranges for cardboard voting equipment to be recycled after an election. (A large amount of the equipment is made out of recycled cardboard.)