The most direct way to have an impact in your community is to vote. All you need to do is enrol.
If you are 18 years or older, it is compulsory to be enrolled to vote. However, many Australians – mostly young people – are not enrolled. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) believes that half of all 18 year olds, and a quarter of people aged under 25, are not registered on the electoral roll.
If your name does not appear on the electoral roll, you have no say in who governs you. You are effectively voiceless. A functioning democracy depends on its citizens participating in the political process – by voting at election time and keeping politicians accountable between elections. Without this engagement, our democratic system is at risk of corruption and decay.
The good news is that, in the 2004 federal election, more than 850,000 young people voted for the first time. This year’s federal election provides another opportunity for many thousands of young people to vote for the first time.
If you haven’t enrolled because you think your vote won’t make a difference, think again. Some seats are decided by a margin of just a few hundred votes. These seats, known as marginal seats, are often pivotal in determining which party forms government.
Following recent changes to electoral laws, the electoral roll will now close three days after the federal election is called. In other words, if you have not enrolled by this time, you will not be permitted to vote in the election. There is a concern that this shortening of the ‘grace’ period has the potential to exclude many thousands of potential voters who are prompted to enrol when an election is called. In the 2004 election, this amounted to 80,000 voters.
So, if you are not registered on the electoral roll, act now! You can pick up an enrolment form from your local post office, by contacting the AEC on 13 23 26, or downloading a form from the AEC website.