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Voting in an election while living in aged care

Voting in Australia is an important civic duty that every Australian should be participating in, but things can be a little more complicated if you are living in aged care.

Last updated: May 9th 2022
There are a number of ways you can vote in an Election, even if you live in aged care and can’t get to a polling booth. [Source: Adobe Stock]

There are a number of ways you can vote in an Election, even if you live in aged care and can’t get to a polling booth. [Source: Adobe Stock]

Key points:

  • If you have mobility issues, you may be able to skip the line at polling booths to vote
  • Alternative voting options include postal voting and telephone voting
  • Mobile voting services may not be available in aged care facilities this year due to COVID-19

You may have mobility issues, require assistance getting in and out of a car, or may not be able to leave your bed currently.

Since it is important and compulsory that everyone has the opportunity to vote, the Government, through the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has put in place measures to ensure that older people, no matter their current ability, are able to vote in elections.

If you have some cognitive decline or are living with dementia, you are still able to vote in an election as long as you have legal capacity to still make decisions. You need to have an understanding of what voting and the importance of an election is to be considered able to vote.
To learn more about supports available for older people, read our article, ‘Election supports for older voters‘.

Want to go in person?

If you decide you want to vote in person at a polling booth, then you need to make sure that the appropriate measures are in place to make the trip safe for yourself.

It is not uncommon for family and friends to take their older loved ones to the polling booth on election day to make sure they can vote, enjoy the democratic process and get a democracy sausage.

You are allowed to nominate anyone to attend a voting booth with (as long as they are not a candidate in the election) to ensure you are able to submit your vote. This could be your family, a friend, or a staff member at your aged care facility.

If you are in a wheelchair or have mobility issues, your nominated person can take you to the polling booth and assist you where necessary to vote. In some cases, a polling booth may allow you to enter the voting place straight away rather than stay in line.

If you don’t have a nominated person to assist you, you can request the assistance of polling booth staff.

Additionally, if you get to the polling booth and realise you aren’t up to getting out of your car, polling booth staff may bring the ballot papers for you to fill out where you are.

When searching for a polling booth to vote at, you can check the accessibility rating next to the name of the polling place.

Postal vote

If you can’t leave your aged care facility because of health-related reasons, then there are a couple other options available to make sure you are able to vote.

The most common form of voting outside of visiting voting booths is by postal vote. To find the application form, head to the AEC website or visit an AEC office for physical application papers.

You will not be able to get your voting package until you have registered, so the sooner you register, the better. If you don’t register in time, you will need to find an alternative voting option.

On the AEC website, you can check the status of your postal vote application as well as cancel the postal vote application if you change your mind.

When you vote through the postal vote, you need to have a person to be a witness of your postal vote. The witness needs to be enrolled to vote to be able to do this, and can be a family member, friend or aged care staff member, but not a candidate in the election.

You and your witness need to check your postal vote certificate with your name and address on it, and you will need to fill in your security question that you previously set when applying for the postal vote.

After checking the information, you need to sign the certificate and then get your witness to sign it as well.

You can then fill out the ballot forms and put them into the return envelope you were provided. Then post the letter at your local post office or through a post box, provide it to a postal booth on election day, or hand it in at an AEC office.

Additionally, it is important you vote as soon as possible through a postal vote because there is a deadline of 13 days after the election for the ballot paper to arrive at the AEC. After the 13 days, your vote will not be counted.

You can find out more about how to undertake a postal vote on the AEC website.

If you want to vote through a postal vote from now on, you can register to be a General Postal Voter.

Mobile voting booths

In most cases, mobile voting booth services visit places or facilities for people who may struggle to get to a polling booth on the day, including residential aged care, hospitals, and remote communities.

While mobile voting booths are common occurrences in aged care for most elections, in 2022 there will be a minimal number of mobile voting booths in aged care facilities due to COVID-19 and the potential virus risk that could put older residents in danger.

To view the current list of mobile voting booths in remote areas of Australia, head to the Australian Electoral Commission website.

Telephone vote

If you have a visual impairment, such as low vision or blindness, then you can utilise voting via the telephone.

You need to register to be able to participate in a telephone vote, which is a two-step process.

Firstly, you will need to register at 1800 913 993. The operator will confirm your details for voting and then you will need to set a PIN number. Following this, you will get your voting number provided to you by either email, text, phone call or mail. Make sure you hold on to these details as you will need this registration number and PIN to vote.

Once you are registered you can vote on the same number, 1800 913 993, the operator will request your registration and PIN number – which was provided to you when you registered.

You will provide your vote to the AEC operator who will record your vote on your behalf and then a second AEC voting assistant will make sure your vote has been recorded according to your wishes.

If you need further advice about voting as a person with visual impairment or need to know when to register and when to vote by, you can contact the Australian Electorate Commission on 13 23 26 or visit their website for more information.

COVID-19 on Election Day

If you are in the unfortunate circumstances of being unable to vote in person because you have tested positive for COVID-19, you are still able to vote!

The Federal Government has made changes to allow for COVID-19 positive voters to be able to access a few of the flexible voting avenues.

You are able to apply for a postal vote up until Wednesday before the Election, however, if there is three days until the Election, you will need to register and vote through the telephone voting system.

What measures do you put in place to ensure you can vote during elections? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

Election supports for older voters
What does informed consent mean?
The role of advocacy in aged care


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