Federal Election Voting: What Happens if You Have COVID on Election Day?

Federal Election Voting: What Happens if You Have COVID on Election Day?
Image: Jono Searle/Getty Images

Australia’s next Federal Election is set for Saturday, May 21, and that means it’s almost democracy sausage time. When it comes to the all-important voting day there are a few different options for polling at this year’s federal election, particularly in the wake of COVID-19.

How to vote safely if you have COVID-19 on election day

COVID-19 is still racking up the numbers and community transmission is at a high. If you do happen to catch the spicy cough and can’t attend a polling booth in person on election day, there are still a few ways you can participate in the voting process.

What are your voting options?

Should COVID-19 have you stuck in bed on voting day, or you’re forced to self-isolate, some recent legislative changes have been made for this situation.

According to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), Aussies will have telephone voting as an option for those forced to quarantine on the day of the Federal Election, May 21.

This is what the AEC’s website says about voting for COVID-19 positive people:

If you test COVID-19 positive after 6pm Tuesday 17 May, and are in isolation on election day, you can register for a secure telephone vote. You must register by 4pm AEST Saturday 21 May. Telephone voting lines will remain open until 6pm local time Saturday 21 May.

However, a problem has been brought up about this system as telephone voting is currently only an option for those who test positive for COVID-19 after Tuesday, May 17 at 6pm.

This means that anyone who has tested positive on Saturday-Tuesday this week and who didn’t already pre-poll or apply for a postal vote before cut-off has no means of voting in this election, seeing as the isolation period remains at seven days.

There’s been plenty of outcry about this loophole which has led to the Electoral Commissioner, Tom Rogers, signing a brief to the government recommending that telephone voting eligibility be expanded to anyone who tested positive from 6 pm on Friday, May 13.

The Electoral Commissioner told the ABC that there could be lengthy delays for telephone voting so he recommended eligible voters cast their phone vote sooner rather than later.

Voting online in the Australian Federal Election

Voting online is not yet an option available to Australians in the Federal Election.

While some local Australian elections have made use of online voting systems for those in need of assistance, this hasn’t been announced as an option for the 2022 Federal Election.

Mobile voting is available for those who are unable to make it to a polling centre, such as those in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and remote areas.

Early voting in the Australian Federal Election

As per usual, if you’re going to be busy, travelling or can’t make it to a polling centre on the day of the Federal Election, May 21, early voting is an option.

If you’re worried about catching COVID-19 in the lead up to the election day, it is also a viable proactive option to vote while you’re not required to isolate.

Pre-polling centres have been set up in the lead up to the Federal Election and you can see a list of the locations here.

Postal voting in the Australian Federal Election

Postal voting is another popular option for those who can’t make it to a polling centre.

Voters will need to have applied for a postal vote prior to 6 pm on Wednesday May 18. From there, ballot papers will be sent to your mailing address.

Postal votes must be witnessed on or before election day and then received by the AEC by June 3, 2022, to be included in the count.

Voting in person on Election Day

Voting on election day is, of course, another option for casting your vote.

On election day, a number of polling locations will be set up at locations such as churches, schools, community halls and public buildings.

If you’re travelling interstate on election day you’ll be able to vote at an interstate voting centre.

There are some advantages to in-person voting such as the famous democracy sausage, so don’t despair if you forget to vote ahead of time!

For all your other election needs, check out our Federal Election guide.

Log in to comment on this story!