After a decidedly ‘shouty’ final leaders’ debate last night, today marks another important milestone in the lead-up to the 2022 Federal Election.
Early voting opened this morning for those unable to make it to a polling place on election day – Saturday, 21 May.
While the Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers still encouraged people to vote in-person on the day, some expect that up to half of all votes may be cast via early voting before the election day if the trend seen at the 2019 election, where 40 per cent of votes were cast early, continues this year.
Here’s how it all works.
Do I have to register for an early vote?
No, unlike a postal vote, all you have to do is walk in to an early voting centre.
Postal voters must complete their ballots on or before election day and they must be received by the AEC no later than 13 days after the election to be counted. People must register online for a postal vote.
Who is eligible?
According to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), anyone who cannot get to the polling place on election day is eligible.
“If you can vote on election day then that’s what you should do,” Mr Rogers said.
“However, if your circumstances might prevent you from doing that then you need to think about the early voting options available and vote according to your circumstances.”
According to the AEC, you may need to vote early if:
- you are outside the electorate where you are enrolled to vote
- you are more than 8 km from a polling place
- you are travelling
- you are unable to leave your workplace to vote
- you are seriously ill, infirm or due to give birth shortly (or caring for someone who is)
- you are a patient in hospital and can’t vote at the hospital
- you have religious beliefs that prevent you from attending a polling place
- you are in prison serving a sentence of less than three years or otherwise detained
- you are a silent elector
- you have a reasonable fear for your safety.
Where can I cast an early vote?
There are around 500 early voting centres around the country.
In Canberra, there are centres at Old Parliament House, Lakeview House in Tuggeranong, the Belconnen Community Centre, Quokka Pavilion at EPIC and 11 Moore Street in the city.
Over the border in Queanbeyan, there is also a centre at the Riverside Plaza shopping centre.
Apart from Old Parliament House, the rest of the centres have the same opening hours: Monday, 9 May, to Friday, 13 May, from 8 am to 8 pm, Saturday, 14 May, from 9 am to 4 pm, Monday, 16 May, to Thursday, 19 May, between 8 am and 8 pm and Friday, 20 May, between 8 am and 6 pm.
Old Parliament House is open from Saturday, 14 May, between 9 am and 4 pm; Monday, 16 May, to Thursday, 19 May, between 8:30 am to 5:30 pm; and Friday, 20 May, from 8:30 am to 6 pm.
What COVID-safe measures will be in place? Do I have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to vote?
No. According to the AEC, you don’t have to be vaccinated to attend a voting centre.
The AEC will have dedicated hygiene officers to regularly sanitise surfaces and pencils at all AEC early voting centres, and social distancing will be enforced. Queues will also be controlled to ensure safe distancing.
Election staff are required to be vaccinated and wear a face mask.
Campaign activities (including handing out how-to-vote cards) are allowed to occur in line with local health directions and electoral laws.
What if I want to wait until the big day?
Polling places open at 8 am and close at 6 pm on Saturday, 21 May. There are many more polling places on the day around Canberra compared with the early voting centres, so use the AEC website to find one near you.