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Thousands of COVID-positive Australians ‘may not be able to vote’ this election, AEC says

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has conceded that some of the thousands of Australians who have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days may not have their votes counted this federal election.
Legislation was passed this year to allow COVID-affected voters to cast a telephone vote.

However, telephone voting is only available for people who tested positive for the virus after 6pm on Tuesday.

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Anyone who’s tested positive since Saturday – meaning they will still be in their seven-day isolation period on election day – and before 6pm on Tuesday, who hasn’t already voted at a pre-poll booth, is only eligible for postal voting.
But applications for that closed at 6pm on Wednesday, meaning those who did not register before the deadline will be unable to cast their vote by post.
“People who did not apply for a postal vote before the Wed 6pm application deadline, haven’t voted yet, tested positive before 6pm Tues, and are in isolation through to after election day, may not be able to vote,” the AEC said on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.

Independent candidate for the Melbourne seat of Kooyong, Dr Monique Ryan, said it’s “a major problem” and she’s heard from many people who are “very distressed”.

She said according to official case numbers, at least 201,000 people across Australia tested positive for COVID-19 between Saturday and 6pm on Tuesday, “which is 1.2 per cent of the electoral roll”.
“That’s enough to determine the result in many close races. There were eight electorates closer than that in 2019. Right now Kooyong looks that close too,” Dr Ryan said on Twitter on Thursday.
“The AEC says these people had a chance to apply for a postal vote. But postal vote applications closed last night. I think it’s safe to assume that a great many people who were in their sick beds with COVID didn’t know about the postal vote deadline.

“I’m going to guess that young people, people who speak a different language at home, etc are VERY unlikely to have known about this.”

Dr Ryan said she’s getting a legal team “to look at what can be done to ensure that all Australians can vote.”
The AEC’s latest pre-poll data shows 5.04 million Australians have already voted in the federal election.
As of Wednesday night, 3,874,878 pre-poll votes and 1,163,993 postal votes had been received.

There are 17,228,900 Australians enrolled to vote.

Graphic showing pre-poll and postal votes received by the AEC

More than five million Australians have already cast their vote in this year’s federal election. Source: SBS

AEC making progress in filling worker shortages, but warns new areas of concern could arise

The AEC has said it is making progress in filing staff shortages after warning the issue could result in the closure of some regional polling stations.
It warned on Wednesday that polling stations could be forced to close due to worker shortages ahead of Saturday’s federal election.
Towns and communities in the federal electorates of Capricornia, Flynn, Kennedy and Leichhardt in Queensland, Barker and Grey in SA and Durack and O’Connor in WA could be impacted by shortages, it said.
But on Thursday, the AEC said that 5,000 additional people had signed up to work at polling stations in these areas of concern.
“The new registrations mean some of the locations we identified yesterday are no longer of critical concern but others are still falling short and, given the current environment, there could be new areas of concern arise,” electoral commissioner Tom Rogers said.

“However, the impact will be limited. We will have the absolute vast majority of the 7,000 polling places we operate across the nation on election day open and operating as per usual.”

Voters line up in Warruwi's community hall, South Bathurst Island off the Northern Territory's north coast.

Voters line up in Warruwi’s community hall, South Bathurst Island off the Northern Territory’s north coast. Source: AAP

On Wednesday, First Nations campaign director at advocacy group GetUp, Amy Gordon, said the closures would be tantamount to voter suppression in some of the electorates with the highestin the country.

“Failure to have remote polling booths open for Election Day means that thousands of Blackfullas and people up in these electorates won’t have their say on the election,” the Goreng Goreng woman told NITV News.

Additional reporting by Sarah Collard.

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