Australian Expatriates unable to vote

19th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

19 November 2007 , AMSTERDAM - On Saturday 24 November 2007, a federal election will take place in Australia but some citizens abroad will be unable to participate in the democratic process. An estimated half a million adult Australian citizens worldwide are not enrolled to vote in this week’s federal election.

19 November 2007 

AMSTERDAM - On Saturday 24 November 2007, a federal election will take place in Australia but some citizens abroad will be unable to participate in the democratic process. An estimated half a million adult Australian citizens worldwide are not enrolled to vote in this week’s federal election.

Current Australian electoral law cites voting limitations for expatriates. A section of the Australian Commonwealth Electoral Act prohibits Australians from re-enrolling for an election if the citizen has been abroad for more than three years. If an expat was un-enrolled previously or forgot to vote in an election, then he or she may not be able to vote again while abroad.

Affected expats feel that the current situation is unfair for those still tuned into Australian politics. The Southern Cross Group (SCG) is an organisation lobbying for the disenfranchised abroad. Anne MacGregor, a contact representing Brussels and London believes, "It's time for a thorough public debate on the expatriate franchise…especially considering that about one in twenty Australians today live outside Australia at any one time." 

A survey in partnership with SCG, One Million More - 2006 Census of Australians Abroad, finds that 56.6 percent of expats did not vote in the October 2004 Federal Election due to being overseas. These citizens abroad may have been unable to vote because they are not enrolled with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

Some of the survey results also indicate however that expats themselves may be responsible for their own disenfranchisement. Although overseas citizens can apply to be an "Eligible Overseas Elector" (EOE), the majority of expats, 60.3 percent, do not participate in this option. Only 7.8 percent of expats have EOE status while 31.9 percent have no idea of their status.

The main argument for Australian expats who wish to be re-enrolled for elections is a recent decision in a prisoner voting rights case. The result of the titled Roach September 2007 case may find the disenfranchisement of overseas citizens unconstitutional. This week's upcoming election re-ignites the voter debate although Australians will still have to adhere to previous rulings for this Saturday.

[Copyright Expatica News 2007]

Subject: European news

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