There were fears up to 200,000 people could be unable to vote after getting Covid. But a last minute change means they are set to have their say.
The Australian Electoral Commission has backflipped on a decision that would have seen up to 200,000 Aussies unable to vote.
There were fears up to 200,000 people could be unable to vote, after the Australian Electoral Commission confirmed that anyone who tested positive to Covid between Saturday and 6pm on Tuesday might be unable to vote.
Phone voting was only available for those who tested positive after 6pm on Tuesday.
But the AEC said on Friday morning it had approved a brief recommending the government change the regulation so people who got positive tests between Saturday and Tuesday can also phone vote.
“This morning I have signed a brief recommending for the eligibility for the service be expanded.” AEC electoral commissioner Tom Rogers said.
The AEC can’t change the criteria itself but Mr Rogers said it had heard the concerns expressed by members of the public who tested positive to Covid-19 prior to 6pm on Tuesday and had not cast an early vote or applied for a postal vote.
“We have analysed the service’s take-up so far, our staffing levels and forecasts for use, and are in urgent discussions with Government about the concerns expressed by members of the public,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told 6PR the government had received the AEC recommendation and would expand the phone voting scheme.
“We’ve made it very clear that we would be accepting any recommendations that came forward. This morning, finally, those recommendations have come forward,” Mr Morrison said.
The decision comes after Kooyong independent candidate Monique Ryan said she would take Federal Court action over the previous rules, which may have made it difficult for some voters to cast their ballot.
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How to vote if you’ve got Covid
Despite our best efforts to stay Covid safe, there is bound to be someone in your life who has been, or will be, struck down by the dreaded virus before they get to a polling booth. (It could even be you)
Some Covid-positive voters might have made the deadline to apply for a postal vote, but others may have forgotten, or be hit by a positive swab result within the last week of the campaign.
And because not voting is simply not an option, what exactly are you meant to do if you were infected?
The answer is as simple as picking up the phone and ringing the Australian Electoral Commission. Almost.
The AEC has set up a “telephone voting solution” for eligible voters who test positive before they get a chance to cast their ballot.
Originally to be eligible, a voter had to test positive after 6pm on Tuesday, May 17 – you were ineligible if you test positive before then. But that has now changed.
In a series of tweets, the AEC said telephone voting is for those who have “no other option after their positive test”.
“Telephone voting is an emergency service only, for the unique circumstances of the pandemic, with deadlines set in the legislation/regulations,” the AEC said.
“People who tested positive to Covid between Saturday and 6pm Tuesday (and haven’t voted yet) were eligible to apply for a postal vote.”
Those who did not apply for a postal vote before deadline, haven’t voted, but tested positive and are in isolation “may not be eligible to vote”.
If you are eligible for telephone voting, here’s what to do
Unfortunately it’s not as simple as just dialling up and voting when you’re free (sorry).
Applicants need to register on the AEC website, and make a declaration of their PCR or RAT result, and prove it came after 6pm on Tuesday, May 17.
Voters will then need to confirm their electoral roll details, complete a brief questionnaire, and choose a 6-digit PIN to receive an 8-digit registration number.
Are you still following?
With that registration number and PIN, voters can then call the AEC and vote through an operator – but the AEC recommends getting familiar with the ballot papers, candidates, and consider preferences before ringing.
”We’ll have thousands of operators (for telephone voters) but there may be a wait,” the AEC said.
“We ask people to be patient with our operators who are working hard to deliver the service”.
Close contacts can attend voting centres, as long as they have not tested positive, but they are advised to take appropriate Covid safety measures when voting.
Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers says this Covid-normal election requires a little more careful planning than normal, and has urged voters to consider voting before Election Day (May 21).
“If you’re busy on Saturday, vulnerable to COVID-19 or aren’t certain of your circumstances then you need to plan an early vote,” Mr Rogers said.
More than 6.5 million people have either applied for a postal vote or cast a pre-poll vote so far.
“Just like any aspect of society recently, if you have COVID-19 you have to plan more carefully. An election is no different,” he said.