The major political parties have launched a pitch for the votes of thousands of expatriate Australians who could influence the final result in this year’s federal election. The Australian Electoral Commission says over 74,000 votes were cast from overseas at the previous federal election in 2010 and it’s expecting similar numbers this time. The major parties are distributing campaign material to potential voters overseas and say they will have volunteers handing out how to vote cards around the world in the lead up to polling day. The Australian Electoral Commission is encouraging voters who are likely to be overseas on the date of the federal election to cast a vote through Australian embassies and consulates. Voters who will be overseas for a short time can fill in an AEC form with details of their electoral division and cast a vote either through the post or through voting centres which will be set up at diplomatic missions.
AEC spokesman Evan Ekin-Smyth says the process becomes more complicated for voters who are staying overseas for longer periods.
“If you intend to return to Australia within six years of leaving the country, you can fill in what we call an overseas notification form and that allows you to stay on the Australian Electoral Roll and you can also apply to be a general postal voter whereby we keep your record on file and send you ballot papers when a federal election is called.”
A lobby group for Australian expatriates believes it’s unfair to only allow people to register as overseas voters if they state an intention to return to Australia within six years.
The Southern Cross Group says this effectively wipes off hundreds of thousands of Australian citizens from the electoral roll, and it’s been long been campaigning for the rules to be changed.
Its spokeswoman in Brussels, Anne McGregor, believes Australia is lagging behind a number of other countries in its approach to overseas voters.
“I think in the United Kingdom, you have the right to vote there for up to 15 years after you’ve left, some of the countries you have to actually physically show up to vote, there are countries who have their expatriates enfranchised forever when they’re away, for example, if I was a United States citizen, I have the right to vote under the US constitution and that would never be taken away from me, I could vote from abroad even if I lived abroad for my whole life.”