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Voice to parliament referendum: When, how and where do I vote?



Australia will head to the polls for the Voice to parliament referendum later this year – the first referendum held since 1999.

Because it's the first such vote in such a long time, there are plenty of questions around how to vote, whether a vote can be cast early or by post, and when enrolment closes.

This is everything you need to know about voting in this year's referendum.

READ MORE: What is the Voice to parliament and what will the referendum entail?

When is the referendum and when do I have to vote?

The referendum will be held on Saturday, October 14, when polling places will be open from 8am to 6pm. 

Early voting will begin about two weeks beforehand, although a public holiday in some states and territories means there's a one-day difference in when exactly early voting begins depending on where you live.

What voting options are available?

Much like state and federal elections, at the referendum you can vote:

• In person on polling day
• In person in the two weeks before polling day
• Via post

Online voting will not be available – you can only cast your ballot in person or by post.

READ MORE: 'Don't close the door': PM's plea as Voice vote date revealed

The Yes and No cases for the Indigenous Voice to parliament will be made public by the AEC this week.

How can I enrol to vote?

The deadline for enrolling to vote and updating your electoral details is closing fast; Australians have until 8pm on Monday, September 18, to do so.

To enrol to vote or update your details, you need to go to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website.

You can also check your enrolment details there.

You don't need to create a separate enrolment for referendums – if you're enrolled to vote in elections, then you're also covered for the referendum, although you'll need to make sure your details are up to date.

How can I vote early?

Early voting will begin on Monday, October 2, in the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, and Tuesday, October 3, in the ACT, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.

The second group of jurisdictions has a public holiday on October 2.

To be eligible to vote early, you must fit one of the following criteria on polling day:

  • Be outside the electorate where you are enrolled to vote
  • Be more than eight kilometres from a polling place
  • Be travelling
  • Be unable to leave your workplace to vote on voting day
  • Be seriously ill, infirm or due to give birth shortly (or caring for someone who is)
  • Be a patient in hospital and can't vote at the hospital
  • Have religious beliefs that prevent you from attending a polling place
  • Be in prison serving a sentence of less than three years or otherwise detained
  • Be a silent elector
  • Have a reasonable fear for your safety or wellbeing

If you are eligible to vote early in person, you need to simply go to a polling place after early votes open during the polling place's opening hours.

The AEC also sends out teams to collect the votes of Australian residents who live in remote areas.

For the referendum, this will begin on Monday, September 25.

More information about remote voting is available on the Electoral Commission's website.

READ MORE: How to make sure your Voice vote gets counted

With the Indigenous Voice to parliament referendum fast approaching, campaigning is ramping up across the country in an attempt to win over undecided voters.There's a hard no being pushed for in Western Australia.

Can I do a postal vote?

Yes. Postal voting is an option in the 2023 Voice to parliament referendum.

The eligibility criteria for postal votes is the same as for early votes, however unlike an early in-person vote, you need to apply for a postal vote.

Applications for postal votes opened at 6pm on Monday, September 11, and will close at 6pm on Wednesday, October 11.

To apply for a postal vote, you need to go to the AEC website.

The AEC will start mailing out postal vote packs from September 26.

Where can I vote?

There will be about 8000 polling places for the referendum, as well as about 500 early voting stations.

The AEC is yet to finalise the exact locations for all of the polling places, although this will be done before early voting begins.

READ MORE: 'What this song's been waiting for': Farnham gives You're the Voice to Yes campaign

How can you vote from overseas?

If you're overseas on October 14, you can still submit a regular early in-person vote if you're still in Australia in the two weeks before the referendum date.

Otherwise, you can apply for and submit a postal vote – although it's advised to do this as early as possible – or vote in person at an overseas polling place.

"For the 2023 referendum, the AEC in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Austrade will be offering in-person voting in a majority of Australian embassies, consulates and high commissions," the AEC says.

"The number of in-person voting centres in cities around the world will increase from what was available at the 2022 federal election."

Do I have to vote, and what happens if I don't?

Yes. Just like in elections, it is compulsory to vote in the referendum if you are aged 18 or over.

If you don't vote, you'll receive a letter from the AEC, which will ask you to provide a "valid and sufficient reason" for not voting or pay a fine.

For the last federal election, that fine was $20.

READ MORE: Yes or No? Voice campaigns revealed

What is the referendum question?

Australians will be asked the following question:

A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?

That would see the following chapter added to the Constitution.

129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:

i. there shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;

ii. the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;

iii. the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.

How do I fill out the ballot?

Voters will be asked to clearly write "Yes" or "No" on their ballot paper.

Anything else – whether it's a tick, or a cross, or a word written in another language – has been highly discouraged by the AEC.

"It is important to write either Yes or No," it says.

"All other responses become a judgment call as to the voter's intent.

"Follow the ballot paper instructions to make sure your vote is counted."

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