Early voting for the 2019 Federal Election started on 29 April, three weeks out from Election Day. For the past three weeks I ran the gauntlet of two early voting centres as I walked to and from work each day. On opposite sides of the road, but still they were only a distance of six blocks apart.
Over 40 voting centres were open on election day in my district and if I happened to drive out of my area to visit a friend or go to a market I could submit an absentee vote at any of the hundreds of voting centres across Melbourne.
In contrast the ABC highlighted the reduction of rural booths in areas like Victoria’s Mallee, which saw 15 historical polling booths closed this election.
The further away from the coast you are the scarcer the booths and the more planning and effort required to cast your vote.
In his newsletter last month LGANT President, Damian Ryan, shone a light on the opportunities available for some small, remote populations of the Northern Territory.
He contrasted the opportunities for voting in the Territory’s capital and a couple of more remote communities, saying if ‘enrolled voters in Darwin do not vote they would be hard pressed to come up with an excuse for not doing so’.
Ryan spotlights the towns of Yarralin and Nauiyu Nambiyu in the Victoria Daly Regional Council area.
“Voters in Yarralin get just one opportunity to vote and that is between the hours of 8.30 am and 12.30 pm on Friday, 10 May 2019 in the Council office. Four hours, one day, that is it”.
“Voters in Nauiyu Nambiyu have even less opportunity.
“Their time slot is just one hour, from 9.00 am to 10.00 am on the same day.
“Too bad if people have something else on that day.”
The alternative for these people is travelling hundreds of miles to Darwin or Katherine to vote or apply for a postal vote.
The reasons given are cost, difficulty finding staff and low voter numbers.
On the first day of early voting 110,000 citizens cast their vote and by the final week prior to Election Day well over one million Australians had voted.
Both Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten have vowed to reduce the early voting window for future elections; it seems it unbalances the roll out of their campaign.
Electronic voting has been suggested again but is not favoured by the Australian Electoral Commission.
And so I am reminded of the value of my vote. Even though the polls will have closed and the votes tallied when this is read, still we need to consider our vote carefully because it is too valuable to be taken lightly whether I walk across the road or drive 100 km for the privilege, I will consider it well and make it count.