Last time there was a federal election in Australia we were overseas. In Malta to be specific, on the remote island of Gozo with all of our family. Not really easy to access the voting booths from this here, let me tell you.
As an Australian citizen it is mandatory that you vote in a federal election. It is not a choice, like for citizens of USA or the UK and if you fail to vote you can receive a pretty hefty fine in the mail. Please, who has time for that!
Before we left for our trip to Europe we tried to find out the easiest way for vote. We wanted to be prepared to avoid that find in the mail at all costs. In 2016 at the time of the last election, we found it very difficult to find information about voting overseas. There was little to no helpful information on the Australian Electoral Commission website.
As we lead into another election in Australia, with the next election in just a couple of weeks on May 18th, there’s bound to be a few of you who are worried that this irritating task is going to disrupt your travel plans.
Here is all the information we came across and all your options if you’re not in the country at the time of an election in Australia. You have a few different options –
Vote at an International Australian Embassy, Consulate or High Commission
This was what we chose to do at the time. During an election you can vote at an Australian Embassy, Consulate or High Commission in the country you’re travelling through.
In the end, it was honestly the easiest election we have ever voted in. Way easier than any of the elections we have been at home for! The process was the exact same as if you were turning up to vote at your local primary school.
Simply head to the embassy on voting day, let the staff their know your name and address and the rest was done for you. You fill out the same ballot paper that you would have at home and pop it into the same cardboard box.
The only thing missing is the sausage sizzle!
Complete a Postal Vote or Early Vote
Depending on your departure date you can choose to complete a postal vote or early vote before you depart Australia and put in an early vote. A great option if the election is within two weeks of your departure date.
Early voting locations are normally available 10-14 days before the election and you can head to one in your electorate to cast your vote early. The earlier you go the easier it will be, with more and more people trying to vote this way the closer you get to an election.
Alternatively, you can fill out a form to have a postal vote sent out to your house, where you can simply fill it out and send it back. The forms are mailed out to you two weeks before the election no matter how early your register for this option.
You can fill in a form to have a postal vote sent out to your house and then you can simply fill it out and send it back.
Nominate someone to vote on your behalf
Another option is to nominate another person who will be in Australia to vote on your behalf, such as a family member or close friend. In this case you would need to fill in a nomination form that includes nominating the specific person who will be completing your vote.
After that things work in a very similar way to the postal vote. About two weeks before the election a postal vote will be mailed out to your nominated person who then fills out all the details the way you asked them to and then mails it back for you.
This would be the ideal option if you’re going to be out of the country more than two weeks before the election, you can’t make it to an embassy or consulate while you’re overseas and you don’t want to miss out on voting.
You can elect not to vote
If you decide that it’s all just too hard and you would prefer not to vote you can fill in an overseas notification which will excuse you from voting on the day of the election.
The form includes options to state that you are now living overseas indefinitely and you want your name to be taken off the electoral role or you’re absent from Australia temporarily and won’t be able to vote in this specific election, but you are returning to your currently enrolled address so your name will stay on the electoral roll.
This might be an easier option if you don’t care about the election and have no interest, but it’s always a good idea to vote if you can.
In 2016 when it was announced that the election was going to be held about four weeks into our Europe trip we gave the AEC a call to find out what our options were. The extremely unhelpful person that answered our call pretty much told us that we couldn’t vote and our only option was to fill in an elect not to vote form and say we were overseas.
Depending on your thoughts about politics you might not be bothered by this at all. In fact it might be your preferred option, and that’s absolutely great. But we were pretty disappointed by her attitude and the fact that she was essentially saying that we could not have our say in our country’s leadership party.
If we hadn’t have put more time and effort into researching and exploring our options we would be been pretty disappointed. Make sure you research all your options before you go so you can make a decision that is best for you.
And trust us, voting overseas isn’t nearly as painful as it might sound!
To see the official information from the Australian Electoral Commission, as well as links to find forms for Postal Votes or Overseas Notifications you can check out the AEC website here.