POLITICS

Enrol To Vote, Because 1 Million Australians Haven't

Enrol or update your details by May 23, or face a $170 fine

09/05/2016 11:35 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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Fairfax Media
Australian have been urged to participate in the great tradition of sausage sizzle-eating (and voting) on July 2.

Australians will go to the voting booth on July 2, 55 days from now, but almost one million of us currently aren't allowed to cast a ballot -- and could face a $170 in the process.

Monday is day one of a mammoth eight-week election campaign, and is the perfect reminder to enrol to vote or to update your details on the electoral roll if you need to. While voting is compulsory in Australia, you actually have to register to do so, and the Australian Electoral Commission said nearly five percent of Aussies haven't done so.

"For people 18 and over, we're at about the 980,000 mark of people who aren't enrolled," Evan Ekin-Smyth, of the AEC, told The Huffington Post Australia.

"That's an improvement since the last election, when there were 1.2 million who didn't vote."

Of most concern to the AEC, however, is the sheer volume of young people who aren't on the electoral roll. Of the 980,000 unenrolled Australians, 380,000 of them are in the 18-25 age bracket; that's almost 18 percent of all people in that age group, compared to around six percent of the general population.

Katie Acheson, chairperson of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, said she was alarmed by the AEC figures, which show half of 18-year-olds and a quarter of 19-year-olds were not on the rolls.

"It's interesting because young people are often the swing votes in elections. The last few elections swung on young people; older people tend to get locked into certain parties, so 380,000 swinging votes is important for all parties to be concerned about," she told HuffPost Australia.

The Youth Affairs Coalition claimed nearly one in three electorates at the 2013 federal poll "were decided by fewer votes than the number of young people in the area who were not enrolled or submitted an informal ballot paper."

"What we're seeing is that politicians are not engaging with young people, so young people are not engaging with politicians. There's a bit of mistrust, they're pulling back from traditional politics, but young people are engaging more with causes like climate change and marriage equality," Acheson said.

Australians have until 8pm on May 23 to enrol to vote, or face a fine of $170, according to the AEC. If a voter's details have changed -- such as moving house, or a change of name -- those details must be amended on the roll too.

Ekin-Smyth said voters could check their enrolment details via the AEC's Check My Enrolment tool, but that enrolling to vote was a little trickier. A new enrolment needs "evidence of your identity" such as a driver's licence or Australian passport, "or have someone who is enrolled confirm your identity".

"The AEC also requires you to enrol at an address you've lived at for 30 days, so you need to be confident you have lived at a location for that time," he said.

"There are ID requirements, but there are people who don't have the required identification and we understand that, so you can have a third party who is on the roll to do it with you, and they can declare that you are who you say you are."

"It is compulsory to enrol and to vote. We live in a great democracy, but in some countries you don't have free access to a vote. It's very easy to do this, to take some time out of your day, get an election-day sausage sizzle, and have your day. It's a valuable thing."

To enrol to vote or update your details, check out the AEC's website.

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