Voting in federal, state and local government elections provide the opportunity to make your voice heard.
Before worrying about who to vote for, what issues matter most to you or even how long the Senate voting paper will be, it’s important that you have the basics covered.
We want to make sure young voices are heard by our leaders and a key place to begin is by ensuring young people are voting.
Young voters tend to be way less active than older voters.
In fact, at the 2013 federal election about 25% of eligible young people weren’t enrolled to vote while around 90% of people over 60 were. So, that’s one little glimpse into why older voices might be heard more than ours…
The good news… We have heaps of power cause we’re wild (cards)
Young people have been described by democracy experts as “the wild cards in the Australian electoral game” because we represent about 30 per cent of the electorate. This substantial proportion means:
“A major shift in the youth vote will change an election outcome." - Whitlam Institute
And one thing they definitely care about is getting elected.
Things have started to change!
250,000 of us weren’t enrolled to vote at the last federal election and another 250,000 of us turn 18 every year... and politicians know this.
But youth enrolment has started to increase massively.
Let’s harness our power!
At the last few elections, the margin between the major parties has been very small, so it’s a particularly good time to take action and harness the power we have.
Don’t let figuring out what electorate you’re in or being unsure if you’re already enrolled stop you from getting this sorted.
It takes a few simple minutes and the essentials can all be done in one place over at the Australian Electoral Commission website. Do it now! It takes just a few minutes (you’ll need some ID)! When you head to the AEC website you can:
Find out if you’re eligible to enrol & vote
Look up your electorate
Check if you’re enrolled in the right electorate
Update your enrolment
If you’re an Australian citizen and 18 or over then good news, you are most likely eligible to vote.
If you’re an eligible 16 or 17 year old you can also enrol, but you’ll have to wait until you hit 18 to vote.
But we admire your enthusiasm and definitely recommend starting to get your head around this stuff before your first election :D
When you enrol via the Australian Electoral Commission website, you are then enrolled for all elections at federal, state and local government level (i.e. you don’t have to enrol again for a council election)
Something that is unique about Australian elections is that, by law, participation is mandatory. You might cop a fine if you don’t vote but really, we think missing out on having a say on the future direction of our country is a bigger disincentive.
What can you do to prepare to vote?
Once you’re all clear on your eligibility and enrolment then there’s a few simple things you can do to prepare yourself to vote.
Find out what electorate you live in:
Your electorate is different at a federal, state and local government level.
When you enrol or update your enrolment, the AEC sends you a summary of the electorates you live in.
If in doubt, you can use the AEC ‘Find my electorate’ tool.
Figure out who the candidates are in your area:
This is a tad harder, because there often isn’t one place where all of this info is hosted. But here’s a few things you can try:
Check out this wiki article where some kinda awesome nerd(s) have curated a list of candidates for the 2019 federal election
You can try a good ol’ google search. Something like ‘<year, election, your electorate> candidates’ e.g. ‘2019 federal election Warringah candidates’
Visit the major party websites and find your candidate by searching your electorate. Keep in mind there will likely be a bunch of minor party’s and independent candidates you want to try and learn about too though.
Make sure you’re on Y Vote’s mailing list so we can keep you in the loop with resources as they come to hand. We’ll be sharing resources on how to figure out where the party’s stand on different issues and how to make the most of your vote.
P.S. you’re not voting for a Prime Minister…
The key thing to keep in mind with Australian elections is that you don’t vote for the Prime Minister - not directly anyway. You vote for two things - who will be elected in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The Prime Minister (whoever happens to be the leader of the party with a majority of seats) sits in the Lower House (House of Reps).
When a party that holds government changes its leader then the Prime Minister will change as well.
Party’s often change their leaders when factions are unhappy with their current leader. Often it’s presented as responding to public discontent with the current leader. Hello “we care about polls" / “we don’t care about polls”
The rules have changed for the two major parties. This makes it harder for them to challenge who the leader is.
Houses & Party’s - Take a crash course:
The President of the Senate takes on the same responsibility that the Prime Minister has in the Lower House. The only difference is that this all happens in the Upper House.
House of Representatives (lower house)
Senate (upper house)
So there you have it.
You now know the basics of how to enrol and what you’re voting for in federal elections.
Be sure to join our community for more updates and helpful resources.
Got a burning question?
If you’re thinking it someone else probably is too. Head over here to ask a nerd (don’t worry, you can stay anonymous).