How to Vote: When and Where

The first step is working out which electorate you live in. The federal electorates were last restructured in 2018, so even if you’ve voted before it’s a good idea to check again just in case you’ve been rezoned since you last voted. To do this, you’ll need to go to this page on the AEC website. It lets you enter your postcode or the name of your suburb to find out what your federal electorate is, who currently represents your area, and what party they’re part of.

Some suburbs are in more than one electorate. If you live in one of those suburbs you can look up maps of both electorates here to see where the exact boundaries are.

This page has a list of the electorates in Victoria. Click on your electorate and it’ll take you to a page with that electorate’s polling places and accessibility information (more on that in a bit), a list of the polling places available for early voting, and a list of the candidates that will be on your ballots.

Interstate polling places can be found here.

At the time of writing (26th of April)  some of the candidate files haven’t uploaded properly yet. If the candidates for your electorate aren’t showing up on that page you can view the full list of candidates at this link. This list can be filtered by electorate, and will show you a small list of lower house candidates (generally around 4 to 8) and the full list of upper house candidates (81 by my count). ReadSpeaker is functional on this page (make sure you aren’t blocking its cookie), and the whole file can be downloaded. This page also has links to every single candidate’s qualification checklist - the form they submit to say that they’re eligible to run for office under section 44 of the constitution.

You can also ask the AEC to send you this information in a more accessible format - they say it’s available in formats “including braille, audio and large print are available by contacting the AEC”.

You can vote at any polling place in Victoria - so if there’s a polling place you are aware of that you can get to and get into, even if it’s not in your electorate you are absolutely fine to vote there - and also at any divisional AEC office in Australia. The divisional AEC offices are listed here.

You also have the option of contacting the AEC and asking them to find a polling place for you. The AEC can be called through the NRS. A full list of contact details are here. For the election, their enquiry lines are open 8am to 8pm every day, and the divisional offices are open 8.30am to 5.30am Monday to Friday only.

Most people will vote at a polling place on election day. If you can’t or would rather vote another way just scroll down to see if there’s another option that works better for you. As long as you’re enrolled you can vote at any polling place.

Polling places are open from 8am to 6pm - but some polling places will close a little early (like 5-10 minutes), even though they aren’t supposed to, so keep that in mind.

When you get to the polling place, there will probably be a line. There should be an election official standing somewhere around where you join the queue. If you have mobility issues/balance issues/cannot stand for very long, let them know, and they should take you to the front, and potentially also get you a seat.

When you reach the front of the line, you will be asked whether you are voting in the electorate you are registered in, or outside of the electorate you’re registered in - you can check which electorate you’re in here. This question will determine which table you go to. If you will need to sit down while you are located on the electoral roll and given your ballot papers, this person is the one to tell.

Once you’re sent to a table, you are legally required to be asked the following three questions as they locate you on the electoral roll:

  1. What is your full name?

  2. Where do you live?

  3. Have you voted before in this election?

If you are voting early they will also ask:

  1. Are you entitled to apply for an early vote?

If you are a silent elector - if your address is suppressed on the roll - they are not allowed to ask you where you live. If they do this, tell them that you are a silent elector - there may be a mistake on the roll, or they might have fucked up - either way, you should not be required to verbally state your address for your safety.

If they can’t find you on the roll under the name you’ve given, the polling official will ask for other names you could potentially be enrolled under. This may mean that you have to out yourself by giving them an old name. Only do this if you feel safe to do so, and if there’s a chance you’ll be enrolled under that name - if your name change was processed before you enrolled, for example, there’s not really a chance you’d be enrolled under that name. If you’re absolutely sure you’re enrolled, but they can’t find your name, you will make a declaration vote.

You’ll be sent to a different table, and be given some stuff to fill out, including an envelope which your ballots will go on into. The details they ask for include:

  • “Your full name, former name (if relevant), date of birth, address where you currently live and your enrolled address if it is different to the address you live at currently, when you moved (if relevant) and a day time contact number”

After your identity has been confirmed and your name marked off on the roll, the polling official will initial, and then give you two ballot papers, and will give you a short spiel about how to use them Then you will be directed to a ‘voting screen’ - like a cardboard standing desk with walls - to vote. This should have nothing in it other than writing utensils.If you will need to sit to vote, talk to the official who tells you which screen to use.

The AEC publishes a guide to the accessibility of polling places. The locations are given one of three ratings - wheelchair accessible, “assisted wheelchair access”, and not wheelchair accessible. You can click on the rating to see what the “specific accessibility features” are.

If you’ve never really looked at something like this before, they look pretty comprehensive, but they’re actually not as useful as they might appear to be - which is why my advice is unless you know that you can vote at a specific polling place, to avoid anything less than fully wheelchair accessible - and you’re able to filter by ‘all criteria’ or just ‘criteria not met’ to see whether or not you’ll be able to vote there. You definitely have to look at the criteria - which is sometimes unclear.

As an example, here’s the accessibility assessments for the two polling places in Carlton - Carlton Primary School and Carlton Gardens Primary School. Both of these places are listed as having ‘assisted wheelchair access’.

The criteria that Carlton Primary School, as inspected three years ago, does not meet, according to the filter, is that is has no accessible toilets. It ‘passes’ the parking criteria, but has only one parking space.

The list of criteria that Carlton Gardens Primary School (you vote inside the art room), inspected this January, does not meet, is longer. But they aren’t really comparable. Carlton Gardens is definitely not wheelchair accessible - the doorways are too narrow, the path isn’t level, and the lift internally is not big enough for a lot of wheelchairs. It has no parking, but does have an accessible toilet. The premises are labelled as having entrance steps (20) - but there’s also a lift. And it is not clear whether the lift has step-free access or not. Step-free access isn’t actually on the criteria list. So it’s not clear whether say, a cane user with a gut disorder, for example, could vote here or not - and it’s not the type of thing you’d be able to find out without actually having someone go there who’s looking for actually useful accessibility information.

This is why I’d avoid the ‘assisted access’ options for voting on polling day, but that’s also honestly pretty hard to do. You’re probably going to have to search around. You can technically still vote at any inaccessible location - a polling official can bring the voting materials out to you and administer the process where you are, if they’re “satisfied” you can’t enter the building or, if you’re in a car, exit your car. This is far from ideal and still has some serious accessibility issues. If you’re in a car and alone it’s hard to let them know to come to you, and it’s up to the individual polling official to decide whether they think you’re “disabled enough”.

If voting in person doesn’t sound like the right option for you then you might be able to vote early or through postal voting. You do not have to register for early voting. You do have to register for postal voting. You can register to be a general postal voter at any time and then you’ll automatically receive ballots by post for all elections which you ask to get them for. If you don’t qualify for general postal voting, but do qualify for early voting, you can register to receive a postal vote, but it will only be in effect for this election only.  

NOTE - other than overseas locations, the locations of polling places will not be released by the AEC until the 29th of April (yes, this is the day early voting starts). We will be updating this article as that information becomes available.

The recent Victorian Election opened up early voting to anyone who wanted to early vote, and that was great, worked really well, and I hope that every local, state, and federal election moves towards that ASAP.

For this federal election, early voting is open only to people:

  • “with disability or mobility restrictions”

  • unable to leave their workplaces to vote on election day

  • who are are seriously ill, infirm (infirm is the AEC wording - it’s generally used for someone that is primarily bed or housebound but not necessarily sick) or due to give birth shortly (or caring for someone who is)

  • are a patient in hospital and can't vote at the hospital

  • have religious beliefs that prevent them from attending a polling place

  • are in prison serving a sentence of less than three years or otherwise detained

  • who are a silent elector

  • have “reasonable fear” for their safety

or if on election day you

  • are outside the electorate where you are enrolled to vote

  • are more than 8km from a polling place

    • if you live over 20km from a polling place you can enrol as a ‘general postal voter’ (meaning that you’ll automatically be set up to vote by post every year).

  • are travelling (note that polling stations will be set up on election day specifically for people who are interstate. If you’re overseas, you’ll be able to vote at one of these places.

For this federal election, general postal voting is open only to people who are:

  • enrolled at an address more than 20 km away from a polling place

  • a patient at a hospital or nursing home and unable to travel to a polling place

  • unable to travel due to being infirm at home (infirm is the AEC wording - it’s generally used for someone that is primarily bed or housebound but not necessarily sick)

  • caring for a seriously ill or infirm person

  • serving a prison sentence of less than 3 years

  • registered as a silent elector

  • unable to attend a polling place due to religious beliefs

  • unable to sign their name due to a physical incapacity

  • registered as an overseas elector

  • a member of the defence force, or a defence civilian serving outside Australia

  • an Australian Federal Police officer or staff member serving outside Australia.

The Victorian form to register for postal voting is here. Other forms are here.

You can also vote in person with assistance - either someone you have elected, or a polling official. To clarify, there’s no form to fill out or anything to elect someone to assist you, you just bring them with you to the voting cubicle.

If you’re being assisted by a polling official, there is supposed to be either a scrutineer or another polling official present to ensure that none of the people who are supposed to be helping you are doing anything dodgy.

To make a legal complaint about the conduct of a scrutineer, go to this link.

Mobile voting also exists, in that the government will send cars out to a bunch of predetermined places (some hospitals, care homes, prisons, and remote areas). The list of locations the AEC will visit is here.

For blind/low vision voters, the AEC runs a telephone voting service. You must register for this service. To do so, call 1800 913 993. Registration begins TODAY, 26 April 2019. Voting begins on MONDAY, 29 April 2019.

The registration service is available between 8.30am and 5.30pm AEST from Friday 26 April 2019 until Friday 17 May 2019. It is also available from from 8am to 12 midday AEST on Saturday 18 May 2019.

When you call, you’ll be asked questions to verify your details on the electoral roll, and you’ll also need to choose a PIN. You will be given a unique telephone voting registration number, and you will be asked to choose whether you want to receive it by email, SMS, phone call or post. Presumably at a certain point, they stop offering the post option.

Once you have received your registration number and you have your PIN, you will need to call 1800 913 993 to cast your vote.

There are different rules for state elections and federal elections. This is the accurate information for federal elections.

If you thought you could get in to vote on polling day and it turns out you can’t, or you were supposed to be voting by post and it didn’t show up and you can’t vote in person, or any of the other myriad reasons you might not be able to vote, don’t panic! You can avoid the fine.

If you were fine all the days leading up to the official election day and then on election day you got really sick or got hit by a car or something, if you can, get a doctors certificate! This will make your life a lot simpler in the coming days.

You will get the scary notice in the post. The notice contains a section that you fill out where you tell them why you couldn’t vote. You need to return it to the AEC by the due date given - this is unfortunately not available on their website - and their powers that be will decide whether or not they think you deserve to be let off the hook. The good news is that the fine is not too expensive for a federal election - it’s $20 (it’s much more expensive for state and local elections).

Examples of ‘valid and sufficient’ reasons for not voting, as laid down in 1926, include being physically prevented from voting, by your own body (philosophy and morals do not count here, sorry) or outside forces, natural disasters, accidents, eschewing voting to save lives, fight crime, or “assist at some great disaster, such as a fire”.

For voting information in other languages, go here!

Written information is available in Arabic, Assyrian, Bosnian, Burmese, “Chinese”, Croatian, Dari, Dinka, Farsi, Filipino, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Macedonian, Nepali, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Telephone interpreter services are available in Arabic, Cantonese, Croatian, Greek, Italian, Khmer, Korean, Macedonian, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Turkish, and Vietnamese. If you need an interpreter for another language, call the number at the end of the list.

There’s also an Auslan guide to enrolling and voting here.

There are also three easy English guides. One on how to enrol (PDF and Word), one on how to vote at a polling place (PDF and Word), and one on how to vote by post (PDF and Word).

Part three, coming soon, will be how to literally vote! What happens on polling day, how to make sure your vote counts and you don’t accidentally vote for a party you hate, and what to do if you make a mistake when voting.