Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Australian Federal Election - How to Vote

This is my first posting on the Australian Federal Election, due on October the 9th! I'd rather talk about how to vote now, and relegate why I voted this way to another post. I'd like to give one unbiased blog on the subject before getting to my personal hatreds. However, note that voted is not the present tense "vote" or future tense "will vote". It's one of the pleasures of expatriate-dom that you get to do the thing before everyone else. (Alternatively, you choose not to do it altogether. Voting is compulsory in Australia, and normally you have to pay a $50 fine. But overseas voters are exempt from this.)

The first question you have to ask yourself: are you on the electoral roll - the AEC's list of people eligible to vote? To find out, check the AEC's Enrollment Verification service. All you really need to do is put in your name, your date of birth, and your suburb. No street  name is necessary, and certainly no street number. The use of HTTPS makes the information private to your computer.

Now if you are enrolled, then it should come up with your electorate and your state. You can vote. If the software says that there's no electoral data on you - it's too late to get on the roll for this election. (The deadline was the 7th of September.) Sit it out and have a cold one instead. That doesn't mean you can't vote in future elections: see the AEC's Overseas Voter page for more details.

Now if you are on the roll, you have two options:

  • Pre-poll: You come into the embassy or consulate, present yourself, and get your ballot papers. Fill them in, throw them in the ballot box, and you are home free. It's just like home - except that the old primary school is now replaced by an office building. You've have from the 27th of September to the 8th of October. But remember, "normal business hours": 8:30-12:00 and 13:00-17:00. Funny about the one hour off, but you have to give the office workers their daily siesta.
  • Postal-vote: To apply, you write to the "Assistant Returning Officer (ARO)" at the embassy/consulate. Ballot papers will be send to thee, and then you fill them in., and then send them back.

My recommendation (and the recommendation of the Australian Government) is that if you are living in Việt Nam, and you can't get yourself down to the embassy, you get yourself a postal vote ASAP. The flyer I got from the consulate states: "Note: Given time constraints and possible delays in postal deliveries in Vietnam, voters are strongly advised to vote by pre-poll vote." You can try, but it's going to involve three separate mailings: first from you to the diplomatic mission, then straight back at ya (plus or minus 2 working days), then a quick scribble and it's back to them again. It might be your turn for the quick one from the fridge on Saturday night.

Anyway, you have two ports of call in Việt Nam:

  1. You've got the Australian Embassy (6 Đào Tấn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội). Ring Janet Whitaker on 04 831 7755 (ext. 148) for election related matters.
  2. For those at the other end of the country, you have the Australian Consulate-General (5B Tôn Đức Thắng, District 1, Hồ Chí Minh City). To talk about voting, try Nichoals Sergi on 08 829 6035 (ext. 107).

That's really it. Before I finish, I just want to state that this blog is intended for the Australians in Việt Nam. If you are living or travelling somewhere else, try Smart Traveller on the election, with its list of Oz embassies and consulates around the world. Cheers.