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How to Vote while living in America (Australian Voice Referendum 2023)

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With the Australian Voice Referendum now called for Sunday October 14, 2023, it's important that we take a moment to work out how to vote from America, whether you have to vote, whether you are able to vote, and where exactly you need to go in the USA. There are lots of rules and regulations about who can vote, how to do it, and where you can vote so it's good you're here to find out more.

This is all relatively painless, so let's go through what's required of you as an Australian Citizen.

The first thing you should know is that the Australian Electoral Commission's (AEC) website is really good. So you should definitely go there and read up. But I've tried to distill the essentials below!

Secondly, here's some general community information about the Voice Referendum in case you don't know what's going on at all:

Is it compulsory to vote in the Australian Voice Referendum from overseas?

So the short answer is no (which might surprise some of you):

Voting in a referendum is not compulsory for Australians overseas.

Can you vote in the Australian Voice Referendum from overseas if you want to?

However, while it is not compulsory, you certainly can vote if you meet the overseas enrolment requirements of the AEC:

If you are overseas and intending to return to Australia within six years, you can register as an overseas elector.

First, you have to think about that and whether you are intending to return to Australia within six years. If you are not intending to return then you should fill out an “Overseas notification form” and it means:

If you are moving overseas indefinitely your name will be removed from the electoral roll and you will not be able to vote in any federal elections held while you are overseas.

So, if you are intending to return within six years but you live and work overseas the next question is whether you are already enrolled to vote or not (to find out, keep scrolling), from the AEC, again:

If you are not already enrolled, and have been overseas for less than three years, you must first enrol to vote overseas. If you are already enrolled, you can apply up to three months before, or within three years after, you leave Australia.

If you are already enrolled, complete and submit an overseas notification form. This form provides you with the option to keep your details on the electoral roll so you will be able to vote in federal elections while overseas:

If you are not enrolled, and have been overseas for less than three years, you may still be eligible to enrol if you are:

  • an Australian citizen aged 18 years or older, and
  • intending to return to Australia within six years.

If you are just on holiday abroad, you can fill in the Overseas Notification Form and let them know that you'll be back (but may not be able to vote).

Do I have to be specially enrolled in Australia to vote in the referendum overseas?

Yes, in order to have the right items posted to you and the ability to easily vote overseas, you should use the overseas elector form, here.

It's not compulsory to enrol and vote when you are outside Australia. However, if you do enrol using the form and don’t either vote or apply for a postal vote, your enrolment and registration as an overseas elector may be cancelled.

There are a lot of extra notes and conditions and answers to questions on the Overseas Enrolment page on the AEC's website, here.

How to find out whether you're enrolled to vote in Australia

To find out whether you are already enrolled to vote (at your previous Australian address, if you haven't already notified the AEC), you can head to “Check my enrollment” on the AEC's website, put in your old Australian address and find out!

If you are enrolled, make sure you update your details using the overseas notification form, because if you're registered in Australia and do not vote, you will be contacted and asked why not (and if you don't reply to that you may be fined).

Can you register to vote overseas if you (or your children) just turned 18?

They can register to vote too!

If you are the child of a person who is registered as an overseas elector you can enrol and vote in federal elections if you:

  • you have never been enrolled
  • you are an Australian citizen
  • you are 18 years or older and had not turned 18 before leaving Australia
  • you are the spouse, de facto partner or child of a person who is registered as an overseas elector and living with or near them overseas, and
  • you intend to return to live in Australia within six years after your 18th birthday.

They just need to fill out a form to Enrol to vote as the spouse, de facto partner or child of an overseas elector for federal elections.

How to vote in person for Australian elections while in America

If you'd like to vote in person check out the AEC's list of “Overseas In-person Voting and Postal Vote Collection Locations” which contains an up to date list of locations that the AEC, DFAT and AusTrade will be managing for this upcoming referendum. There will be more information on this page as it comes to hand about times, dates, and any other information relevant.

Alternatively, you can use a postal vote.

How to get a postal vote and how to complete it

If you've done all the steps above, you can apply for a postal vote which you can fill that in and send it back within the time they've specified. You should keep apply as quickly as possible as it can take some time to receive your postal vote.

You will receive a postal voting pack that includes all the information you need to complete your ballot paper and return them to the AEC.

Your vote will need to be witnessed by one of the following groups:

  • an Australian citizen (if you're in NYC, you'll find a bunch of Aussies every Friday at Coffee with America Josh!)
  • an officer of the Defence Force or of the naval, military or air forces of a Commonwealth country,
  • a person appointed or engaged under the Public Service Act 1999,
  • a member of the civil or public service of a State or Territory or of a Commonwealth country,
  • a Justice of the Peace for a State or Territory or a Commonwealth country,
  • a minister of religion or medical practitioner resident in a State or Territory or a Commonwealth country,

If you absolutely cannot find a witness there is another form online that will let you completely it without a witness.

Postal votes must be received by the AEC before 13 days after the referendum, which is the 27th of October, so get your votes in quick (and at most locations listed below you can drop your postal votes to ensure they will be counted in time.)

When will overseas voting centers be open across the USA?

Overseas voting centers should all be available during the early voting period, which commences on Monday 2 October and runs for a two week period leading up to referendum day. The opening dates and times will vary and I've detailed a number of those below or you can head directly to the Overseas In-person Voting and Postal Vote Collection Locations, here.

  1. ASAP – Check your enrollment so you know where you stand (using your last known registered address in Aus)
  2. ASAP – You should fill in the overseas notification form (or if you are not enrolled at all, you can go here to enroll from overseas)
  3. ASAP – Apply for a postal vote. Postal vote applications have not yet opened for the 2023 referendum. You can visit this page now for the referendum to apply for a postal vote.
  4. October 2, 2023 – Voting centers for in-person voting will open on October 2, 2023 (Early Voting Starts)
  5. October 11, 2023 – Postal vote applications will remain open until 6pm on the Wednesday 11th October 2023, but by this stage, your postal vote likely won't be received in time.
  6. October 27, 2023 – Postal votes time limit. Please be aware that the AEC can only legally count postal votes received before the postal voting deadline – 13 days after voting day.

Where to vote in the Voice Referendum in the United States

For the most accurate information before to check out the Australian Embassy's page on “Australian Elections”.

How and where to vote in New York City

Voting will be available in New York:

Postal Vote Collection LocationAustralian Consulate-General
150 East 42nd St
34th floor
New York NY 10017
In-person drop-off available?Yes – during in-person voting hours (see below).

Note: government-issued photo ID is required
to access the Consulate-General.
Return mailing addressAustralian Consulate-General New York
Attn: Assistant Returning Officer
150 East 42nd St
34th floor
New York NY 10017

How and where to vote in Los Angeles, California

Voting will be available in LA at the following location:

Postal Vote Collection LocationAustralian Consulate-General
2029 Century Park East
Suite 3150
Los Angeles CA 90067
In-person drop-off available?Yes – during in-person voting hours (see below).

Note: government-issued photo ID is required
to access the Consulate-General.
Return mailing addressAustralian Consulate-General Los Angeles
Attn: Assistant Returning Officer
2029 Century Park East
Suite 3150
Los Angeles CA 90067

How and where to vote in San Francisco, California

Voting will be available in San Francisco at the following location:

Postal Vote Collection LocationAustralian Consulate-General
555 Market St
San Francisco CA 94105
In-person drop-off available?Yes – during in-person voting hours (see below).

Note: government-issued photo ID is required
to access the Consulate-General.
Return mailing addressAustralian Consulate-General San Francisco
Attn: Assistant Returning Officer
575 Market St
Suite 1800
San Francisco CA 94105

How and where to vote in Houston, Texas

Voting will be available in Texas at the following location:

Postal Vote Collection LocationAustralian Consulate-General
3009 Post Oak Blvd
Suite 1310
Houston TX 77056
In-person drop-off available?Yes – during in-person voting hours (see below).

Note: government-issued photo ID is required
to access the Consulate-General.
Return mailing addressAustralian Consulate-General Houston
Attn: Assistant Returning Officer
3009 Post Oak Blvd
Suite 1310
Houston TX 77056

How and where to vote in Washington DC

Voting will be available in DC at the following location:

Postal Vote Collection LocationEmbassy of Australia
1601 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington DC 20036
In-person drop-off available?Yes – during in-person voting hours (see below).

Note: government-issued photo ID is required
to access the Embassy.
Return mailing addressEmbassy of Australia
Attn: Assistant Returning Officer
1601 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington DC 20036

How and where to vote in Chicago, Illinois

Voting will be available in Chicago at the following location:

Postal Vote Collection LocationAustralian Consulate-General
123 N Wacker Dr
Suite 1330
Chicago IL 60606
In-person drop-off available?Yes – during in-person voting hours (see below).

Note: government-issued photo ID is required
to access the Consulate-General.
Return mailing addressAustralian Consulate-General Chicago
Attn: Assistant Returning Officer
123 N Wacker Dr
Suite 1330
Chicago IL 60606

How and where to vote in Honolulu, Hawaii

Voting will be available in Hawaii at the following location:

Postal Vote Collection LocationAustralian Consulate-General
Penthouse
1000 Bishop St
Honolulu HI 96813
In-person drop-off available?Yes – during in-person voting hours (see below).

Note: government-issued photo ID is required
to access the Consulate-General.
Return mailing addressAustralian Consulate-General Honolulu
Attn: Assistant Returning Officer
Penthouse
1000 Bishop St
Honolulu HI 96813

Need more information or some help?

You can always comment below but a better plan is to contact the AEC directly from overseas:

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Josh Pugh

A business founding, digital marketing focused, charity driving, community builder from South Australia, living in New York City. After moving in 2017, Josh realized that there was an opportunity to curate and help the community of expats who moved to the United States – and launched America Josh.View Author posts

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