Don't vote today and you'll get hit with a fine

Those who may be thinking they can dodge voting in the Federal Election today should consider that it will set you back up to $222 and even a court appearance.

Voting has been compulsory in Australia for people aged 18 and above since 1924, and not voting is a violation of section 245 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

Failing to vote attracts a fine of $20, but the cost could grow if that amount isn't paid.

A spokesperson from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) previously told Yahoo Finance Australia that ignoring the $20 penalty could see the matter land you in court and, without a valid excuse, you could be hit with a $222 fine plus court fees.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison accidentally knocks over a child ahead of the Federal Election
If you don't vote today and don't have a valid excuse prepare to get hit with a $20 fine. Source: Getty Images.

How will they know if you didn't vote?

The AEC has registered 17.2 million voters for the 2022 Federal Election compared to 16.4 million in 2019. In that year 92 per cent of eligible voters turned up at the polls to cast their ballot.

If you are registered to vote with the AEC, your name will be on the electoral roll at each polling booth throughout the electorate where you are registered.

If your name is not checked off the electoral roll at any of the polling booth locations, you will receive a letter from the AEC asking to explain the reason why you didn’t vote.

If you did vote, advise the AEC and provide details by the due date contained in the letter. If you didn’t vote and don’t have a valid reason, you must pay the $20 penalty.

It is at the discretion of the AEC's Divisional Returning Officer (DRO) for each electorate to determine whether you have provided a valid and sufficient reason for not voting.

Signs displaying photos of politicians Monique Ryan and Josh Frydenberg and a person handing out how to vote cards
Australians will be heading to the polls today for the 2022 Federal Election. If you can't get to a polling booth to vote, there are other options available. Source: Getty

What are valid excuses for not voting?

It is at the discretion of the AEC's Divisional Returning Officer (DRO) for each electorate to determine whether you have provided a valid and sufficient reason for not voting.

The DRO will consider the merits of your individual case and take into account any specific circumstances at the polling places within their division in making a determination.

The High Court has previously given the below examples of valid reasons for not voting:

Physical obstruction, whether of sickness or outside prevention, or of natural events, or accident of any kind, would certainly be recognised by law in such a case.

One might also imagine cases where an intending voter on his way to the poll was diverted to save life, or to prevent crime, or to assist at some great disaster, such as a fire: in all of which cases, in my opinion, the law would recognise the competitive claims of public duty.

Another valid reason would be if a voter felt they had a religious duty to abstain from voting.

What if you tried to vote but were unable?

If you tried to vote but were prevented from doing so for some reason, you must provide that reason to the AEC. If the reason is valid you will not be fined.

What if you can't get to a polling booth on Election day?

There are also a number of other options to vote such as telephone voting and mobile polling teams. See the AEC website for further details.

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