Voting ain’t easy when you’re a Russian spy
Like many young Australians, I move house a lot. Since Kevin07, I have been located at four different addresses within four different electorates. So when Julia Gillard dressed up in pure white to call an election, I went online and started to update my details with the AEC. So did my girlfriend.
A couple of clicks and a signature and soon I was done. My girlfriend had a little more trouble. It seems she had disappeared from the electoral roll. Immediately I became suspicious. I castigated her for insulting our democratic privilege and never voting. I had already spent most of the weekend sulking because she refused to join me at the polls in August to hand out ‘how to vote’ cards. ‘You obviously don’t care about how much money we get given after you have a baby because the Government has pulled RU486 from the shelves,’ I said, slipping from my soap box as I wagged my finger at her.
‘I vote,’ she shrieked. ‘I voted for Kevin, I even voted at the Council elections’.
We called the AEC to confirm she had been erased from the electoral roll. ‘Have you gone by any other names,’ they asked. ‘No’ ’Are you sure about your birthday?’ ’Yes’ ’You’re not on the roll”
I looked at my girlfriend with distrust. The AEC doesn’t just erase you from the electoral roll. She had either lied to me about voting or had lied to me about her name. Possibly she was a spy. She was Russian after all. And attractive.
After an hour of intense physical interrogation. I decided to trust her. The AEC must have erased her from the roll. But why? I needed to know. Luckily I knew what to do as I had taken an investigative journalism class at university. I jumped on to Google.
I typed in ‘lying voters unenrolled’ and came across an article on the GetUp site titled: ‘Your vote stopped! Get the facts’. It seems that if the bulk-mail from political candidates currently clogging up your letter box is returned to the sender, then the politician has the ability to report you to the AEC, and subsequently have you removed from the electoral roll. This allows political parties to target areas of the electorate and weed out any absentees. If you live in a Labor district of a marginal seat, then chances are the Liberal candidate will bulk-mail that area to weed out any potential Labor voters that have moved house, usually young mobile people like my girlfriend and I.
This wasn’t too much of a problem five years ago, you could still rock up on polling day despite being removed from the roll and cast your vote as a provisional voter. The Howard government got rid of this, and now these votes are rejected. So you could effectively turn up to vote on August 21, find you are not on the roll, and be told you can’t vote and be subsequently fined $110.
If you do decide to be conscientious and check if you are enrolled to vote on the day the election writs are issued, and discover you have been removed from the roll, like we did, you only have until 8pm to enrol. This shouldn’t be too much trouble, if you own a fax machine, have a scanner or live next to an AEC office. It also wouldn’t be too much trouble if you didn’t immigrate to Australia when you were a five-year-old and had to find some obscure citizenship certificate number that could possibly be on the other side of town in your mother’s filing cabinet. An Australian passport number just won’t do.
So after running around town, collecting certificates, filling in forms and finding an antique fax machine, my girlfriend was ready to send her re-enrolment form to the AEC. She had three hours to spare. After reading about how to use a fax machine on eHow.com and working out which side-up the paper should face we finally dialled the AEC. We got an engaged tone. We tried again. And again. And again. And then it was 8pm. Deadline past. She failed to enrol.
The Labor Government tried to amend the electoral act to make it easier to vote. To allow for provisional voters and to allow for a week’s grace to enrol. The Coalition opposed these changes. Why? Because it seems the rules they put in place stop young immigrants from voting, and as Antony Green has noted, ‘Labor always does better than the Coalition in the Provisional Vote’.
If my girlfriend could vote, I’m sure she would want to vote against a party that prevented her from voting and cost her a $110 fine. But maybe she’ll just become a spy instead.
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