From Enrolling to Voting Early, Here’s Your Guide to Planning for the Federal Election

From Enrolling to Voting Early, Here’s Your Guide to Planning for the Federal Election
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Can you smell that, folks? It’s the warm, familiar aroma of a democracy sausage slowly cooking on a BBQ in the far off distance. The Australian Federal Election is set, people, and we now have a date for the big day — it’s Saturday, May 21, so mark you calendars.

If you’re keen to learn more about how best to prepare for the Federal Election date in 2022, here are some helpful tips worth consulting.

What is the Australian Federal Election?

federal election date
Via Parliamentary Education Office

A Federal Election is held in Australia in order to allow citizens aged 18 years and over to vote for Members of Parliament.

Per the Government’s Parliamentary education platform, “At federal elections, Australians choose members of parliament to represent their views and interests in the Senate and the House of Representatives“.

When voting for members of parliament in the Senate, Aussies can elect to either vote above or below the line, depending on their preferences.

Again, referring to the Parliamentary Education Office, this is how that process is broken down:

  • Above-the-line voting requires voters to number at least 6 boxes from 1 to 6 for their chosen parties or groups. Voters’ preferences are distributed in the order that the candidates in the chosen parties or groups are listed below the line. Preferences are distributed to the party or group of first choice, then second choice and so on, until all preferences are distributed.
  • Below-the-line voting requires voters to number at least 12 boxes from 1 to 12 for their chosen individual candidates. Voters’ preferences are distributed to the candidates in the order of choice, as numbered on the ballot paper.
Federal election australia day
Via the Parliamentary Education Office

When voting for members of the House of Representatives, you’ll be asked to number options from 1 to 8 on your ballot paper.

How often are Federal Elections held?

Federal elections are generally held every three years in Australia.

How long is a government term in Australia?

Being that Federal Elections must be called every three years on a date chosen by the Prime Minister, generally speaking, a term is a three-year period.

However, while House of Representatives elections must be held at least every 3 years, senators represent their state or territory for six years. There is a rotation system in place here so during Federal Elections, Aussies are asked to vote for half the senators.

How do I check if I’m enrolled to vote?

As @oldparliamenthouse shared on Instagram recently, once a Federal Election date is called you have six days to check your AEC enrolment is up to date. As of April 18, you can no longer enrol to vote.

The best place to visit for enrolment details is the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). Here, you can enrol to vote in the election, update your details, or simply check your enrolment.

Where can I vote in the next Federal Election?

voting, democracy sausage
Federal Election date. Where to vote and check your enrolment. Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Voting can be done in person on election day at polling booths or through pre-polling and mail voting. It is compulsory for citizens over 18 to enrol to vote, so best get familiar with the options on how to have your say this year.

Voting in-person

Now that the date of the Federal Election is set for May 21, you can begin planning your approach to voting in person (if that’s your preference). As the AEC states “A list of polling places and interstate voting centres will be available at www.aec.gov.au a few weeks before election day”.

If you are interstate at the time of the election and have not voted early, you will need to get your vote in where you are. There is no restriction on which polling centre you are required to vote at.

Polling places open at 8:00 am and close at 6:00 pm.

We spoke with the AEC about wait times for voting in the 2022 Federal Election, and a representative stated over email, “We think that around three-quarters of Australian voters at the previous federal election in 2019 waited about 15 minutes or less to have their say”.

“Ultimately though whenever you have a manual system to the scale of a federal election (17m people) that effectively allows for people to turn up where and when they choose there will be queues. Add COVID restrictions and safety measures in, we think the queues will be longer at the 2022 federal election and we’re asking all voters for their patience.”

The AEC expects that additional safety precautions like wiping down surfaces, speaking through masks, venue capacity limits and social distancing may stretch the timings of things out somewhat.

“The number of pencils we use will increase from 100,000 to 4.5 million, we’ll have 63,000 litres of hand sanitiser and 34,000 bottles of surface cleaner. These safety measures can not only make queues longer but also make them look longer as well.

“Simple things like having your phone ready to check-in and speaking really clearly through a mask when providing your name will be immensely helpful.”

There will be extra staff on-site, “approximately 100,000”, to help speed things up, along with the use of “mini-queues where we can and laying out polling places in the best formation possible to allow for distancing and swift throughput”.

In short, please be patient. And do your best to keep the system rolling smoothly on the day.

Alternatively, you are able to vote early and avoid the crowds if that is better suited to your circumstances (like if you cannot get out of work, or are travelling at the time of the election date).

Voting online

As we covered in our piece on what happens if you get COVID-19 on the day of the Federal Election, voting online is not yet an option for Aussies.

Mobile voting is available in certain circumstances, such as those who are hospitalised, but it is not available to the general public.

Postal voting

If you’d prefer to avoid attending in person, you can opt for a postal vote. On this, the AEC writes that:

To vote by post you can apply online or pick up a postal vote application form at any AEC office. The AEC will mail out your postal voting pack after the candidates for the election have been finalised.

Who are the Federal Election Candidates?

When you vote on your local candidate in the Federal Election, you will be having your say about the party you think is best suited to run the country. Whichever party wins 76 seats or more in the House of Representatives wins power (unless we end up with a hung parliament and that’s a whole other mess). Whoever is the leader of the party then becomes Prime Minister.

We’ve covered the leaders of the major parties in some more depth here, but we’ve pulled together a quick summary in this article also.

The Coalition

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is the current leader of the Liberal Party, which also makes him the leader of the Coalition — a partnership with the National Party of Australia.

Labor

Anthony Albanese is the current leader of the Australian Labor Party.

The Greens

Heading up the Australian Greens Party is Adam Bandt, who is the Member for Melbourne.

Independent Candidates

There are a range of independent candidates running in seats across the country. We can’t go into each and every one of them here, but you can see who’s running in your electorate on the AEC website.

Will I get a democracy sausage at the end?

voting, democracy sausage
Australian Federal Election date, how to plan for voting on the day. Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Your chances are pretty good if you head to a polling station to vote on May 21, the day of the Federal Election. How to spot an excellent democracy sausage is another thing, entirely. Here’s a simple (but important) guide.

When will we know the election results?

Australia is made up of 151 federal electorates, meaning a party needs a majority of 76 seats to win. If neither party can secure 76 seats it can lead to a hung parliament.

Naturally, the process is a lengthy one and while many Aussies are used to hearing results on the night of the Federal Election, the AEC’s legal declaration can take days or weeks to confirm.

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