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Federal election: Aussies risk court and $222 fine for failing to vote

·Personal Finance Editor
·2-min read
Federal election: Voters cast their votes at a voting facility.
Aussies who don't vote in the upcoming federal election will face a fine or even a court date. (Source: Getty)

If you forget, or refuse, to hit the polls on May 21 for the federal election you could be hit with a fine and even a court date.

Failing to vote will see you receive a $20 penalty from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), but ignoring the fine could see you facing a judge.

A spokesperson from the AEC told Yahoo Finance that failing to pay the $20 penalty could see the matter land you in court and, without a valid excuse, you could be hit with a $222 fine plus court fees.

What is a valid excuse for not voting?

It is at the discretion of the AEC’s Divisional Returning Officer (DRO) for each electorate to determine whether you have provided a valid and sufficient reason for not voting.

The DRO will make a determination in accordance with section 245 (5) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

The DRO will consider the merits of your individual case and take into account any specific circumstances at the polling places within their division in making a determination.

However, the High Court gave some examples of valid reasons for not voting:

Physical obstruction, whether of sickness or outside prevention, or of natural events, or accident of any kind, would certainly be recognised by law in such a case.

One might also imagine cases where an intending voter on his way to the poll was diverted to save life, or to prevent crime, or to assist at some great disaster, such as a fire: in all of which cases, in my opinion, the law would recognise the competitive claims of public duty.

Another valid reason would be if a voter felt they had a religious duty to abstain from voting.

Different ways to vote

You can vote early, either in person or by post, if on election day you:

  • Are outside the electorate where you are enrolled to vote

  • Are more than 8km from a polling place

  • Are travelling

  • Are unable to leave your workplace to vote

  • Are seriously ill, infirm, or due to give birth shortly (or caring for someone who is)

  • Are a patient in hospital and can't vote at the hospital

  • Have religious beliefs that prevent you from attending a polling place

  • Are in prison serving a sentence of less than three years or otherwise detained

  • Are a silent elector

  • Have a reasonable fear for your safety

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