Australia is about to have an election, voting is on Saturday 21 August, but not everyone can make it to a polling booth on that day so we have a system that allows certain people to submit a postal vote before the election day. Like a lot of Australians I received a Postal Voting Information leaflet in the mail this week, which contains two postal voting forms and tells you how to fill out the form. Not everyone is allowed to submit an early postal vote and the leaflet contains an eligibility list, this is the exact wording:
Eligibility for early voting
You are eligible to vote before election day if, on election day, you can’t get to a polling place because you:
- are outside the state or territory where you are enrolled to vote
- are more than 8km from a polling place
- are travelling or can’t leave your workplace to vote
- are seriously ill, infirm or approaching childbirth (or if you are 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 or otherwise detained
- are a silent elector
OK, most of these are fair enough and quite self explanatory, if you physically can’t get to a polling place (and they have thousands of them) on election day then the government has to provide you with a system to let you still vote; hence the early postal voting scheme. [For those non Australians reading this, in Australia it is compulsory to vote, if you don’t vote you get fined (it used to be about $50, not sure what it is these days)]
Why is a religious belief an excuse to not attend a polling place on election day? What religious belief could prevent you from voting on a Saturday?
I’d love to submit a postal vote, heaps easier than having to make sure you put aside 1/2 an hour or so in the day, physically getting to a polling booth (where you often have to queue for a while) getting inundated with all the ‘how to vote flyers’ and then standing there and filling in the massive ballot paper; but I don’t meet any of the above eligibility criteria so I can’t. Why can you get away with it just because of a religious belief? Why, yet again are we pandering to the religious?
Knowing that some polling places are actually inside churches (schools, community halls and churches are the common places used for polling booths) perhaps I could claim eligibility by saying that my atheism prevents me from attending a polling place within a church? What do you think are my chances of getting away with that excuse?
Oh, and one last thing, what the heck is a “silent elector”?