What to do if you test positive for Covid before the election

·3-min read

In the era of Covid, the Australian Electoral Commission has taken a number of steps to ensure people can safely vote this Federal Election.

From hand sanitiser and extra pencils (roughly 4.5 million!) at polling booths, to options for people who need to stay away.

Many Australians will likely be taking a RAT before heading to the polling station on Saturday. But what happens if you test positive and have to isolate?

Phone voting available if you test positive for Covid

If you can't get to a polling station, you can still vote over the phone.

Normally reserved for blind and low-vision voters, those in isolation will be able to cast their vote by making a quick call this election – and it's already available.

A positive RAT test as Australians head to polling booths.
If you get a positive Covid result ahead of voting, there is a back-up option. Source: AAP

The cut-off to apply for a postal vote was Wednesday at 6pm. But anyone who tested positive for Covid since last weekend can register to vote over the phone at the AEC website.

Opening on Thursday, phone voting is available again on Friday from 8.30am to 6pm local time, and from 8.30am to 6pm on election day on Saturday.

Initially those who tested positive before Tuesday 6pm but hadn't organised a postal vote were out of luck.

However after public backlash, Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said on Friday morning the commission had written to the government saying it had extra capacity and urged the rules to be changed.

"This morning I have signed a brief recommending for the eligibility for the service be expanded," he said in a statement.

The caretaker government immediately acted on the advice.

"For anyone who tested positive from 6pm last Friday evening will now be able to access telephone voting," he later told the ABC radio.

However those many thousands using phone voting should expect queues, he warned.

What you need to do before voting over the phone

Before calling up the AEC, you'll want to go have a look at the ballot paper for your specific electorate. You can find that by entering your suburb or postcode here.

Then you'll need to consider how you want to mark your voting preferences.

There's a fair bit to remember, so the AEC asks that you have the page open at the time. When you're ready, call 1800 413 960 to cast your vote.

Is phone voting still private?

Yes, the person you speak with won't know your identity. Instead you'll be asked for an 8-digit registration number and 6-digit PIN rather than your personal details in order to mark you off the electoral roll.

This means your vote remains secret because the AEC voting assistant will not know your name or address, the AEC says.

"An AEC voting assistant will record your vote onto hard copy ballot papers. The voting assistant will then place the ballot papers into an envelope and the envelope will be placed into a secure ballot box and then included in the count."

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