Stopping telephone voting could prevent COVID cases from voting from isolation

Nearly 200,000 Australians who have tested positive for COVID-19 and self-isolate risk being unable to vote in these elections because they are not eligible for telephone voting and must instead rely on their postal cards arriving on time.

Since 2013, around 2,000 blind or visually impaired Australians have voted through the telephone voting method. The Australian Electoral Commissioner received the power to allow “individuals affected by coronavirus” use telephone voting from 6:01 pm on the Wednesday before the election when the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1918 it was changed in February. The Wednesday cut is written in the act and cannot be changed by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

A total of 193,882 Australians reported testing positive for COVID between Sunday and Wednesday. These people are expected to self-isolate last election day, but are not eligible for telephone voting. Instead they have to rely on their ballot papers in the mail on arrival time or lose the vote. Some have been told by the AEC that their ballots will not be delivered until after the election.

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Over the weekend, Kate, 29, started having symptoms but tested negative on Monday morning. Symptoms worsened over the course of the day and she tested positive on Tuesday.

Since she tested positive before 6pm on Wednesday, she was not eligible to vote by phone. But when she asked for a vote in the mail, the AEC website said her ballot was not due until May 23, two days after the election, even though she lives in Melbourne.

On Twitter, responses from the AEC Twitter account are filled with people claiming to have the same problem: “I tested positive on Monday and asked for mail order that day (the only option on your website) However you have indicated that it is not likely to be received until May 29 ” one person tweeted.

The AEC said people who asked for a ballot by mail would not be fined even if they didn’t get it before election day, but they couldn’t promise their ballots would be counted.

“Postal votes are sent by priority mail via Australia Post. Additionally, for late postal voting applications, the AEC uses a courier service to ensure delivery is even faster. We do absolutely everything in our power to ensure that postal ballot applications are delivered to the voters on time, however we cannot guarantee this, “she said.

Another issue that some have raised is that mail-order voting requires a witness, a problem for those who tested positive for COVID and live alone.

The AEC reaffirmed the importance of a witness to voting by mail and suggested ways in which voters could meet this requirement.

“They may be able to arrange with family or a friend, with security measures in place (e.g. through / under doors, with the use of masks, spacing, disinfectant or other COVID security interventions), to complete this requirement quickly and safely, “he said.


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Peter Fray

Peter Fray
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