Australian expats and the right to vote

Australian expats and the right to vote

Let’s face it – voting is not something most Australians look forward to. It’s a complex process at the best of times; a process which becomes even more complicated for Australian expats.

What are the current Australian expat voting rules?

Many Aussie expats are understandably disenfranchised by the Australian electoral voting system. Currently, Australian electoral law prevents Australians living overseas from voting if they have lived abroad for over three years. Having been deleted from the electoral roll by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), they will be unable to vote until they return to Australia.

Why so complex?

The rules surrounding this area are not understood by most expats. This is a reflection of their complexity and the fact that many Aussie expats (wrongly) assume that citizenship is enough to guarantee their right to vote. If you want to retain your voting rights, we encourage you to visit the AEC’s Q & A page on Australian expat voting.

What should I do if I plan to live overseas?

If you intend to live overseas permanently or indefinitely, you must obtain an Overseas Notification Form from the AEC. Once lodged, this form will remove you from the electoral roll.

However, if you are going overseas for more than one year, but less than six, you can choose to remain on the roll by registering as an overseas elector.

Why is it so important to protect my voting rights?

As an Australian expat, taking steps to protect your voting rights is absolutely essential. Interestingly, the AEC equates a planned overseas stay of more than six years with an indefinite departure. Yet, as you know, many expats simply don’t know how long they will be overseas.

What should I do?

If you believe you are entitled to vote, and can check your status through the AEC’s online verification process, you should be able to vote at any Australian consulate or embassy overseas. Postal votes are also available on request. You can obtain these from the AEC website when an election is announced.

Then, you must submit your postal vote by fax or post to your nearest polling location.

Shane Macfarlane CA
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