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Voice to parliament referendum: When, how and where do I vote?

Australia will head to the polls for the Voice to parliament referendum on Saturday for the first referendum held since 1999.
Because it's the first such vote in such a long time, there are plenty of questions around how to vote, whether a vote can be cast early or by post, and when enrolment closes.
This is everything you need to know about voting in this year's referendum.
The referendum will be held on Saturday, October 14, when polling places will be open from 8am to 6pm.  (Penny Stephens)

When is the referendum and when do I have to vote?

The referendum will be held on Saturday, October 14, when polling places will be open from 8am to 6pm. 
Early voting has already begun, with early voting centres having first opened on October 2 in some states and on October 3 in others.
The first ballots in the referendum were actually cast before early voting began, as remote voting started on September 25 to allow as many Australians as possible to vote.
These votes, of course, won't start being counted until polls close.

What voting options are available?

Much like state and federal elections, at the referendum you can vote:
• In person on polling day
• In person in the two weeks before polling day
• Via post
Online voting will not be available – you can only cast your ballot in person or by post.
The Yes and No cases for the Indigenous Voice to parliament will be made public by the AEC this week.
Online voting will not be available – you can only cast your ballot in person or by post. (Alex Ellinghausen)

How can I enrol to vote?

If you're trying to enrol now, unfortunately you're too late; the deadline to do so and update electoral details closed at 8pm on Monday, September 18.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) said a record 97.7 per cent of eligible Australians – 17,676,347 people – were registered to vote at the referendum, driven by a surge in the youth and First Nations enrolment rate, the latter of which is also at a record level of 94.1 per cent.
Enrolment for referendums is the same as for elections, so Australians who voted in elections were covered for the referendum without having to create a fresh enrolment.

How can I vote early?

Early voting began on Monday, October 2, in the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, and on Tuesday, October 3, in the ACT, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
The second group of jurisdictions had a public holiday on October 2, hence the delay.
To be eligible to vote early, you must fit one of the following criteria on polling day:
  • Be outside the electorate where you are enrolled to vote
  • Be more than eight kilometres from a polling place
  • Be travelling
  • Be unable to leave your workplace to vote on voting day
  • Be seriously ill, infirm or due to give birth shortly (or caring for someone who is)
  • Be a patient in hospital and can't vote at the hospital
  • Have religious beliefs that prevent you from attending a polling place
  • Be in prison serving a sentence of less than three years or otherwise detained
  • Be a silent elector
  • Have a reasonable fear for your safety or wellbeing
If you are eligible to vote early in person, you need to simply go to a polling place after early votes open during the polling place's opening hours.
The AEC also sends out teams to collect the votes of Australian residents who live in remote areas – this began on Monday, September 25.
More information about remote voting is available on the Electoral Commission's website.
You don't need to create a separate enrolment for referendums. (Justin McManus)
With the Indigenous Voice to parliament referendum fast approaching, campaigning is ramping up across the country in an attempt to win over undecided voters.There's a hard no being pushed for in Western Australia.
If you're enrolled to vote in elections, then you're also covered for the referendum, although you'll need to make sure your details are up to date. (Nine)

Can I do a postal vote?

Yes – but only if you've already applied for one.
The eligibility criteria for postal votes is the same as for early votes, however unlike an early in-person vote, you had to apply for a postal vote.
Applications for postal votes opened at 6pm on Monday, September 11, but closed at 6pm on Wednesday, October 11.
The AEC started mailing out postal vote packs on September 26.
These postal votes need to be completed on or before Saturday and then mailed off so the AEC receives them no later than 13 days after referendum day.
The AEC will accept postal votes as late as 13 days after Saturday to ensure it receives votes from those overseas.
If you were planning on doing a postal vote but didn't apply for one in time, you'll now have to either vote early, or in person on Saturday.
How Australia voted in all 44 of the nation's referendums

Where can I vote?

There will be about 7100 polling places open on referendum day on October 14, in addition to the more than 550 early voting stations.
These range from schools to community centres, town halls, auditoriums and other public places, and are spread all across the country.
You can find voting places that suit your needs – whether that's early voting or accessibility services – at the AEC website.

How can you vote from overseas?

If you're overseas on October 14, you can still submit a regular early in-person vote if you're still in Australia in the two weeks before the referendum date.
Otherwise, you can apply for and submit a postal vote – although it's advised to do this as early as possible – or vote in person at an overseas polling place.
"For the 2023 referendum, the AEC in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Austrade will be offering in-person voting in a majority of Australian embassies, consulates and high commissions," the AEC says.
"The number of in-person voting centres in cities around the world will increase from what was available at the 2022 federal election."

Do I have to vote, and what happens if I don't?

Yes. Just like in elections, it is compulsory to vote in the referendum if you are aged 18 or over.
If you don't vote, you'll receive a letter from the AEC, which will ask you to provide a "valid and sufficient reason" for not voting or pay a fine.
For the last federal election, that fine was $20.
The AEC is yet to finalise the exact locations for all of the polling places, although this will be done before early voting begins. (Photograph by Chris Hopkins)

What is the referendum question?

Australians will be asked the following question:
A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?
That would see the following chapter added to the Constitution.
129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:
i. there shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;
ii. the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
iii. the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.

How do I fill out the ballot?

Voters will be asked to clearly write "Yes" or "No" on their ballot paper.
Anything else – whether it's a tick, or a cross, or a word written in another language – has been highly discouraged by the AEC.
"It is important to write either Yes or No," it says.
"All other responses become a judgment call as to the voter's intent.
"Follow the ballot paper instructions to make sure your vote is counted."

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