How to Vote in Australia? (Hebrew): Seventeen million Australians are enrolled to vote at the upcoming federal election.In Australia, we have an independent body manage the electoral system. The Australian Electoral Commission ensures that all eligible citizens have the chance to help shape our federal government.This week,we will explain how to vote How to vote at the federal election
How to vote in Australia
(( by Melissa Compagnoni produced in Hebrew by Nitza Lowenstein)
Seventeen million Australians are enrolled to vote at the upcoming federal election.
In Australia, we have an independent body manage the electoral system. The Australian Electoral Commission ensures that all eligible citizens have the chance to help shape our federal government.
This week, Settlement Guide explains how to vote.
On election day the Australian Electoral Commission, or AEC, expects one million voters every hour through their voting centres across the country. Voting is compulsory for everyone on the electoral roll.
You must be sure to vote in your own electorate, says Jess Lilley, Spokesperson for the AEC.
((“There are 151 federal electoral divisions in Australia, and we’ve got a great tool on the website – aec.gov.au. You’ll be able to input your suburb or postcode to find out what electoral division you’ll be voting in. But you can also give us a call on 13 23 26 to talk to an AEC staff member or access our telephone interpreter services”.))
The AEC runs thousands of polling places on election day. Schools and church halls are common venues. The information is available on the AEC website.
((“You’ll be able to input your suburb and your postcode, and our tool will help you find who your candidates are as well as where you can actually cast your vote.”))
Polling places offer instructions and assistance in multiple languages, says Evan Ekin-Smyth, Spokesperson for the AEC.
((“You can get somebody to assist you to cast your vote. We have an interpreting service via telephone that you can access. If you think you’ll need to access these sorts of services, there’s a number on our website – aec.gov.au/translated. You call up that number and you’ll be able to ask questions and have somebody in language instruct you as to how to cast a formal vote.”))
AEC mobile voting teams will visit people in residential care and remote communities to ensure that no one misses out.
Voters who can’t attend a polling place on election day can vote in other ways.
((“If you have a barrier to voting on election day, there are early voting centres in the weeks leading up to polling day. And likewise, if you’re unable to get to an early voting centre, you can cast a postal vote as well.”))
To apply for a postal vote, visit the AEC website after the election has been announced, says Ms Lilley.
((“This year it’s going to be really open for postal voting given the COVID circumstances. We’ll also have that postal vote application for people who don’t feel comfortable going to a polling place, or live or work remotely and need to access those postal voting services.”))
If you are isolating due to COVID you can access the AEC’s telephone voting system. Details will be available following the election announcement.
If you plan to be interstate on election day you can use a postal vote or visit an interstate voting centre.
You can also vote if you are overseas. Overseas notification forms are available on the AEC website, alongside different options for your individual circumstances. Some Australian High Commissions also offer voting centres.
When it comes time to vote you will see political parties distributing voting information outside polling places. Don’t let them mislead you, says electoral analyst William Bowe.
((“What the parties do is they hand out ‘how to vote’ cards at polling booths on election day that recommend that you fill out your ballot paper a certain way. You don’t have to vote that way. It’s just a recommendation.”))
At the federal election you will be voting for your local representative.
((“While people usually think of an election in terms of choosing the national leader, the national leader will be the leader of the party who wins the most seats in parliament and you will not be voting for that leader directly.”))
Voters are given two ballot papers, one green and one white.
The green ballot paper is to vote for one person in your electorate to join the House of Representatives, or what we call the Lower House of parliament. There are currently 151 seats in the House of Representatives, representing each electorate. Mr Bowe explains.
((“It’s in the Lower House that the government is formed, and it is the party that wins the most seats in the Lower House that typically forms government.”))
The leader of the party or coalition becomes Prime Minister.
To voteon the green ballot you write the number ‘1’ next to your preferred candidate, then ‘2’ next to your second choice and continue until all the boxes are numbered.
The white ballot paper is to elect one of 76 seats in the Senate, or Upper House. You will vote to elect a senator from your own state or territory. Voting is slightly different, explains Mr Bowe.
We have enormous ballot papers because every candidate for the entire state is included.
((“But voting can be quite simple because there are two different ways you can do it. There are boxes above the line and boxes below the line. Boxes above the line, there is one for each party. The quickest and simplest way to vote is to pick your six favourite parties and number them in order of your preference from one to six. If you are particular about which candidates you want to vote for you can number a lot more boxes below the line. If you vote below the line you have to number at least 12 boxes.”))
This voting system is called ‘preferential voting’. Numbering the boxes in your preferred order allows your vote to carry more weight, says Mr Bowe.
((“The seat is not simply won by the candidate who gets the most crosses next to their boxes on the ballot papers. You have to get 50 per cent of the vote in order to win the seat. If nobody gets 50 per cent of the vote, then you exclude the last placed candidates. You look at those ballot papers again and then you move those votes on to whoever they put second. And you keep eliminating the last placed candidate until you end up with a candidate who does have over 50 per cent of the vote.”))
Be sure to follow the voting instructions carefully. If your ballot paper isn't completed correctly it becomes an ‘informal vote’ and is not counted towards the election result.
Examples of informal votes include marking the boxes with a tick or cross instead of a number, or writing something on the ballot paper that could identify you.
Voting is compulsory. Valid reasons for not voting are at the discretion of the AEC who will assess your specific circumstances. The AEC understands that some people who are overseas may not be able to vote, for example.
Failure to vote can result in a fine, explains AEC Spokesperson Mr Ekin-Smyth.
((“If anybody enrolled doesn’t turn up to a polling place to cast a vote, they could be issued with what we call a non-voter notice. If you have a valid reason, that’s fine, you just let us know. Otherwise you have to pay the $20 fine. And if we don’t get a response from that non-voter notice, it could end up in court with a $170 fee and associated court costs.”))
The real penalty however is missing out on having your say, so always do some research and cast an informed vote.
Find out more about how to vote at aec.gov.au or call 13 23 26.