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Chapter 7 Section I: Equal Access to Democracy for people living with mental health conditions and other disabilities

Unlike most similar liberal democracies, Australia does not have a Bill of Rights or a single list of the fundamental rights of citizens of a country. This does not mean that Australians do not have rights. Instead, legal protections for human rights may be found in the Constitution (the set of rules for governing a country) and in legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament or State or Territory Parliaments.

There are five individual rights specifically stated in the Constitution, and one of these is the right to vote (Section 41). The principle of non-discrimination is a fundamental one in human rights law – all human rights should be enjoyed by everyone regardless of factors such as gender identity, marital or relationship status, sexual preference, racial or religious background, age; and/or responsibility for the care of others.

There are three levels of government in Australia – federal (or Commonwealth), state and territory, and local government. Voting is an opportunity to choose government officials or parties to represent you at these three levels of government. Voting is an important way to participate in the democratic political process. For more information about the different levels of government, click here.

Voting is compulsory in Australia, and you can receive a fine if you do not vote without a good reason in a local, state or Commonwealth election in Australia.

You do not have to tell anyone who you voted for you if you do not want to.

You will find information in this section about:

  • the Electoral Roll ; and
  • the NSW Electoral Commission.

7.I.1: The Commonwealth Electoral Roll

The Commonwealth electoral roll is a list of all people who are registered to vote at Australian elections and referendums. Australian citizens eighteen (18) years of age and over must enrol to vote, and voting is compulsory in federal elections and referendums for enrolled electors.

The following Australians are not entitled to enrol and vote:

  • people who are incapable of understanding the nature and significance of enrolment and voting
  • prisoners serving a sentence of five years or longer
  • people who have been convicted of treason and not pardoned
  • people who have not have not lived at an address for one month and are not registered as ‘itinerant voters’; or
  • people who are living overseas long term who do not plan on returning to Australia.

It is a good idea to make sure your address is correct on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll, and to update your details whenever you move homes. To find out which electoral division you are in for a Commonwealth election, click here.

7.I.1.1: Special enrolment

Some people qualify for special enrolment so that they can be provided with services for their special needs. These include:

  • people with a physical disability or illness can have someone assist them enrol and vote if necessary, and can apply to become general postal voters
  • people with no fixed address may enrol as itinerant voters
  • people going overseas can register as eligible overseas voters
  • people can apply for silent enrolment if they believe that the publication of their address on the roll would put their own, or their family’s safety at risk; or
  • 17-year-olds can provisionally enrol and can vote if their 18th birthday falls on or before polling day for the election or referendum.

Enrolment forms are available at all post offices and agencies, Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) offices or can be downloaded from the AEC website . The forms may be returned to the AEC by post, fax or in person.

AEC Division Offices in NSW can be contacted by clicking here.

7.I.2: NSW Electoral Commission

The NSW State Electoral Commission (SEC) has the power to conduct, regulate, and report on elections for the New South Wales government. They also provide electoral services to local governments. The SEC’s work includes:

  • running independent, fair and accessible elections
  • providing transparent processes and guidance to assist political participants (including candidates, parties, elected members, donors, third-party campaigners and lobbyists) to comply with their legal obligations
  • publishing political donation and expenditure disclosures and registers of political parties, candidates’ agents, third-party campaigners and political lobbyists
  • engaging with the public to make it easier for people to understand and participate in the democratic process; and
  • investigating possible offences and enforcing breaches of electoral, funding and disclosure, and lobbying laws.

There is a New South Wales electoral roll is a list of the names and addresses of every registered voter in the state. It is a good idea to make sure your address is correct on the NSW Electoral Roll, and to update your details whenever you move homes. To find out which local or state electorate you are in for local or state elections, click here.

7.I.2.1: Participating in the Electoral Process

The NSW State Electoral Commission (SEC) has a responsibility to provide electoral services that are relevant, accessible and inclusive to help all eligible voters understand and participate in the democratic process.

The SEC consult with three community reference groups to foster diversity and inclusion. The three priority communities supported are Aboriginal people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and people with disability.

The SEC provides targeted material and special assistance to support communities to participate in State and local government elections:

Information is available about how to enrol and how to vote in elections in various community languages, available on the website. The Translating and Interpreting Service is available for electors who require language assistance on election day, for early voting and pre-poll, and telephone enquiries.

Resources are available for electors with disabilities. These resources include Auslan videos and easy-read guides about how to enrol and how to vote in elections.

For local government elections, electors can vote early with Braille ballot papers. All voting centres and polling places have accessible voting screens, maxi pens and magnifying sheets.

7.I.2.2: Eligibility for iVote

Most Australians vote by attending a polling place on the day of the election. However, you can vote online or over the telephone in State elections using iVote. iVote is not available for use in NSW local government (council) elections. For more information on iVote online and telephone voting, click here.

You can vote using iVote if you:

  • are blind or have low vision
  • are unable to vote without assistance or have difficulty voting at a voting centre because you have a disability or have difficulties reading
  • are a silent elector
  • live more than 20km from a voting centre; or
  • will be interstate or overseas during election day.

To apply to vote using iVote:

  • visit the iVote website anytime from the date applications open until 1pm on election day;
  • call 1300 2 iVote (1300 24 86 83) within Australia, or +61 2 9290 5287 from overseas (extended call centre hours during election period);
  • select whether you intend to vote online or over the telephone using a telephone keypad; and
  • provide a password for online voting, or a PIN for telephone voting.

You will need your iVote number together with your password or PIN, to cast your vote using iVote.

Updated May 25, 2020