With the government’s same-sex marriage postal vote registration deadline done and dusted, the next stage of the process is to watch out for your voting papers to arrive in the mail.
Unless a planned High Court challenge stalls or stops the postal plebiscite, forms are believed to start arriving from September 12, and you’ve got until November 7 to send them back in before results of the vote are announced on November 15.
If you already know you’ll struggle to receive your survey forms in the post – fear not – because the ABS has already thought ahead and have released special details for special circumstances, including if you’re overseas, homeless or living with a disability.
What if I’m a silent elector?
Silent electors are electors who wipe their addresses from the electoral roll, causing a slight hiccup given no details of silent electors will ever be passed on or known to the ABS.
So instead, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) will forward all survey materials to Silent Electors for the ABS in an AEC envelope with an AEC covering letter.
Survey responses can be returned to the ABS through the normal process, with all responses being anonymous.
The AEC have also created a hotline for Silent Electors with any questions about this process. It will operate Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm AEST on +61 2 6271 4441.
Can I collect voting forms in person?
Short answer – yes.
As well as delivering survey materials by post, the ABS will advertise locations in every capital city, and some regional and remote locations, where eligible persons who can’t forms by post can collect and/or return survey materials from or to an ABS officer.
Locations, dates and times for where forms can be picked up will be advertised on the ABS website.
How can I submit a paperless vote?
If you can’t access your survey form or complete their survey form independently, you may authorise another person you trust to assist you with their survey, or to complete the survey form on their behalf.
If someone completes a survey on your behalf, the ABS expects that the eligible Australian would “specifically authorise that trusted person to open their Postal Survey envelope” and “communicate their survey response to that trusted person so this can be accurately marked on the survey form”.
The trusted person would need to seal the form in a reply paid envelope and post it back to the ABS.
Keep in mind a person cannot self-declare themselves to be a trusted person for someone else.
How will Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples vote?
For the majority of people living in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the ABS has some flexibility given the four to five week window to collect and return postal forms.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can access also collect forms in person, submit a paperless response or rely on a trusted person.
If you’re an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person in a remote area, forms will be sent by priority post with priority return mail envelopes.
Where household delivery isn’t possible, mail will be held at the closest mail agent where it can be collected.
Between 25 September and 20 October, locations with phone or internet connectivity will have the option to provide a response without a paper form.
The ABS will produce materials translated into a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages which will be available on ABS website, pick up locations and distributed through existing networks.
Information messages and advertising will also be communicated in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander media.
What I’m eligible to vote but overseas at the time?
There’s heaps of multiple options to vote if you’re an Australian abroad. People who have an overseas postal address on the Electoral Roll will be posted a letter containing a Secure Access Code that allows a response online or by phone.
Paper forms will not be posted overseas for this survey. Australians who are temporarily overseas may be able to complete their survey form before they leave or after they return.
Survey forms will be delivered to Australian nominated addresses by 25 September, including for people that have notified the AEC that they will be temporarily overseas.
Completed forms need to be received by the ABS by the 7 November deadline, allowing a reasonable period for completing and posting back the paper form.
Eligible Australians that are overseas for this entire period could ask a trusted person to receive their form on their behalf, open it, complete it based on their instruction and return it to the ABS.
If neither of the above options are possible, the eligible Australian overseas will be able to request a Secure Access Code from the ABS through the Information Line or the ABS website from 25 September to 20 October 2017 and complete the survey online, via the automated telephony service or via a call centre.
Voters who are blind, low vision or living with another disability
For people with a disability that may make the completion of the postal return more difficult, they can ask a trusted person to assist with the completion and return of their postal survey form.
Alternatively, the person will be able to request a Secure Access Code from the ABS through the Information Line or the ABS website from 25 September to 20 October 2017 and complete the survey online, via the automated telephony service or via a call centre.
All survey material and the ABS website has been designed to maximise accessibility for people with vision or intellectual disabilities. The Information Line is also available to provide assistance.
What if I am experiencing homelessness?
People experiencing homelessness have several options for taking part in the survey.
They can collect a survey form from one of the ABS pickup locations, request a survey form be posted to the address of a trusted person, or contact the ABS through the Information Line or the ABS website to complete the survey online, via the automated telephony service or via a call centre.
Like the Census, the ABS will work with Homeless Service Providers and community organisations to provide information to people experiencing homelessness on how they can participate in the survey.