The federal election is around the corner and campaigning is reaching fever pitch. There have even been complaints that party volunteers have been entering temporary or mobile polling booths to assist residents to fill out their Senate ballot papers.*
Courts have previously considered the question of whether prisoners have, or ought to have, voting rights (answer: preventing a group of adult citizens from voting is not consistent with the Constitution per the High Court decision in Roach v Electoral Commissioner (2007) 233 CLR 162)).
Provision is made for hospital in-patients who generally vote via a mobile polling booth – the presiding officer will take a ballot box, ballet papers and anything else necessary and will be accompanied by a polling official to facilitate voting.
But what is the situation for residents of aged care facilities, particularly those who are physically incapacitated or cognitively impaired?
A voter who is visually impaired or physically incapacitated or illiterate is entitled to appoint someone to enter an unoccupied compartment of the booth with the voter, and mark, fold and deposit their ballot paper for them (section 234 of the Electoral Act 2002 (Cth)). The Australian Electoral Commission says that a voter can even elect a party worker can to assist a voter in this categorysituation.
There is no express obligation on aged care facilities to arrange for a mobile polling booth for its residents, although that is an option. Residents can of course cast their ballot via a postal vote. It is an offence for the proprietor or employee of an aged care facility to influence the vote of a resident (section 325A of the Electoral Act 2002 (Cth)).
If an older person has lost capacity, provision exists to remove them from the electoral roll using a prescribed form.
Everyone has a right to participate in representative democracy. To that end:
- assist your physically incapacitated, visually impaired or illiterate family members or friends to vote;
- make sure your family members or friends complete a postal vote; or
- apply to remove a family member who is incapable of understanding the nature and significance of enrolment and voting, to minimise the risk of undue political influence being exerted on them and to help them avoid a penalty for failing to vote.
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