I Won’t Be Voting on November 24th

Not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t. I have been purged from the electoral roll.

Like many Australian Diasporans I am in the curious position of being completely disenfranchised. My home country has kicked me off the rolls, yet I am not a citizen of another country so I do not get a democratic vote in the local, state and national governments where I pay taxes. The Southern Cross Group estimates [pdf]:

that there are at least 500,000 Australian citizens of voting age overseas who are not on the electoral roll and who are currently disenfranchised because the law prevents them from enrolling.

Where does the modern mobile globalised workforce fit in with democracy and the nation-state?

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30 Responses to I Won’t Be Voting on November 24th

  1. Graham Bell says:

    Cam:
    That stinks. Moreso when you think of the efforts made by various countries in the European Union to get their citizens in Australia to exercise their right to vote whenever their homeland has an election.

    It is my opinion that the political system in Australia has now become the dodgiest this side of a one-party military dictatorship.

    b.t.w., during my military service many years ago, a lot of diggers were struck of their respective electoral rolls. You can fight and die for Democracy but don’t get caught doing it. :-( [To be fair, I’ve heard that things have improved in the ADF so that service personnel anywhere are usually retained on the electoral rolls].

  2. observa says:

    If you fled to NZ after the last election then I have no sympathy for you. OTOH if you’re just gadding about global warming on a deductible junket then come back quick because Johnny needs you.

  3. cam says:

    If you fled to NZ after the last election then I have no sympathy for you. OTOH if youre just gadding about global warming on a deductible junket then come back quick because Johnny needs you.

    wtf?

  4. Kevin Rennie says:

    My understanding is that you may be able to enrol and vote even though you are out of Australia for 6 years and even longer in some cases. http://www.aec.gov.au has info for Australians overseas but you’ll have to be quick.

  5. Guy says:

    That really sucks. I look forward to voting in London – assuming all my paperwork for overseas voting has gone through and is ok. :)

  6. observa says:

    ‘wtf?’
    cam, if you listened to the tragics at Chris Sheils last election, short of slashing their wrists at another Howard win the consensus was they should migrate to NZ. I think the US equivalent was Dems migrating to Canada if Bush won too.

  7. observa says:

    On a more serious note, did you see that item on TV some time back where an Aussie Italian was elected as an MP in Italy, largely by a strong expat community here who get to vote, irrespective of their Aus citizenship? Can’t recall his name but I thought it was all a bit bizarre.

  8. cam says:

    Italy has Senate seats specifically for its diaspora. They have Senators for Europe, South America, North America and the rest of the world.

  9. observa says:

    Sounds like he was the rest of the world senator then. Shades of ancient Rome again eh?

  10. Stephen Hill says:

    Is there no-way you can get someone you know in Sydney/Melbourne to go to the AEC by Wed 8:00, and through a consulate offer find some way to verify identification for the AEC. Don’t know if this is any help. If not I agree it stinks.

    http://www.aec.gov.au/FAQs/Voting_Overseas.htm#osyearmore

    Can I enrol from outside Australia or register as an overseas elector via the internet?
    No. The relevant form must be completed and hand signed. It can then be faxed or mailed to the AEC.

    The original form should still be sent through the mail with the words “Form faxed/emailed on [date]” written on it in red.

  11. Amanda says:

    Is there a reason you couldn’t have made arrangements in the three years or before you left? What have you done in previous elections?

  12. cam says:

    Amanda, Numerous reasons. I have been out of Australia since 1998. I didn’t really become fully politically aware until 2001/2002. When I first left I was not aware of the electoral act and its restrictions on diasporans. To cap it off originally I thought it was not fair or just of me to impose my politics on Australians when I was not living there. I have since changed my opinion as now I believe it is more important to be enfranchised as it is an intrinsic part of political expression (getting close to a natural right there).

    So it has compounded. I have tried to get back on the roll a couple of times unsuccessfully. I will probably express myself politically in the way Irish and Israeli diasporans of years past have by sending money to my preferred candidates.

  13. I have been disenfranchised for over 20 years since leaving Scotland. I have always been on temporary visas or permenant residences status like here in Australia.

  14. cam says:

    Colin, That is the issue for nation-states. We have liberalised capital, goods and services such that they are global. The world labor market is in the process of liberalising as well; a good example being yourself, and me another.

    How does the nation-state and democracy accommodate people like us? At the moment it doesn’t.

    I think they only way it can be achieved is by liberalising the definition of citizenship away from nationalism. Otherwise there will be a floating pool of the disenfranchised around the globe.

  15. conrad says:

    Cam,

    you are bennefitting from the trade-off between old-style nation state style democracy and the new style of 21st century democracy (not yet open to everyone), otherwise known as voting your feet, or freedom of establishment/movement. Be happy to be part of the movement — when more and more take this option, governments will be forced to take into account the opinions of the citizens, including those typically ignored, otherwise they will just move elsewhere. Perhaps you should see the advantages of this and what it has brought you as greater than the loss of voting in the country of your birth nation.

  16. Niall says:

    Clearly, another indictment on the current brand of ‘Democracy’ similar to that postulated by David Shearman earlier this week in Perspective

  17. gilmae says:

    No representation without taxation!

    It’s Wednesday now, so if you want me to run down to a gummint office for you, better do it quick, mate.

  18. Robert says:

    I don’t get it. You don’t live here, and your absence is more than a short-term one, so why should you be entitled to vote here? If you want a vote in your new home country, you should apply for citizenship there.

    I am an Irish citizen. I do not expect the right to vote in Irish elections, and I am opposed to proposals to create “diaspora” electorates. If I want to live and vote in Ireland, I can. If I want to live and vote in Australia, I can, and I do.

    And on the other hand, if I want to leave Australia on a semipermanent basis, decide I don’t want to vote while I’m away, then change my mind after the relevant deadline (which I was aware of) has passed, I really have no basis for my whinging.

  19. Cam,
    John Howard doesn’t want you – distance just might add dispassionate insight to your vote if you were enrolled.
    That’s why the considerable hurdles remain to retaining your Australian franchise while residing overseas.

  20. cam says:

    Robert, I dont get it. You dont live here, and your absence is more than a short-term one, so why should you be entitled to vote here? If you want a vote in your new home country, you should apply for citizenship there.

    So you are arguing that nationalism trumps democracy and voting is an entitlement or privilege granted by the state rather than an intrinsic value of an individual being able to express themselves democratically?

    Why should I have to become a citizen to vote? Surely paying taxes, owning property locally, being a member of a local community should mean I would have the power to express myself democratically? Why should I have to wait for the state to ‘grant’ me that?

  21. observa says:

    What are you saying cam? If I’m born in SA and move to NSW I should always vote for the electorate I was born in? It gets administratively unworkable after a while, not to mention the logistics of being adequately informed by the candidates in order to cast a responsible vote. Too hard basket mate.

  22. pablo says:

    Some voters in Argentina have taken to selling their franchise over the Internet as a protest against what they regard as inadequate politicians/polity. And it seems that it is not illegal to sell your vote in that country where voting is not compulsory, unlike Australia. It makes you wonder if vote selling could occur here where absentee voting is catered for in a relatively mobile population. It could be potentially decisive in a marginal seat. Too much me-tooism in a lacklustre campaign where no one wants to talk about real issues might be enough?

  23. cam says:

    observa, If Im born in SA and move to NSW I should always vote for the electorate I was born in?

    No. I am saying wherever you pay taxes locally (or live and are above the age of reason) then you should be enfranchised there. Nationalism gets in the way of this. I would rather vote in the local elections here as I have a direct interest in taxes being low, services full and government being non-arbitrary.

    So I think enfranchisement, which in nation-state terminology is citizenship, should be liberalised in the same way goods, services and capital have been.

    Where it gets complex is that I still identify myself politically as an Australian.

    I dont have any identity with a local electorate, so am comfortable not voting in the House, but would like a say in the Senate which despite its federal character in the constitution has a national make up.

    However I would prefer to vote in the town, county and state elections here I live in the US. I would forego voting in the US national elections to have a say locally.

  24. Amanda says:

    You can get dual US-Aust citizenship now. My brother in law gets to vote against both John Howard AND George Bush, making him the envy of us all.

  25. observa says:

    Boy what a thrill for him Amanda. He gets to barrack for the losers twice. I speak as Port Adelaide fan and non-voter.

  26. Yobbo says:

    At least you don’t have to pay tax to Australia when working overseas like Americans have to…

  27. Tim Quilty says:

    I always (well, ok recently, when I started thinking about all my friends from school and uni who are overseas) thought we should have two senate spots for the O/S Australians. Just for this reason. Maybe we’ll float that as an LDP policy. Because they are Australians and they have a right to vote and participate in our country.

  28. cam says:

    Yobbo, At least you dont have to pay tax to Australia when working overseas like Americans have to

    I am eligible for US citizenship, and that is one of the least desirable parts of it.

    Tim, Maybe well float that as an LDP policy. Because they are Australians and they have a right to vote and participate in our country.

    I go back and forth on this issue.

    If nations let anyone vote who was above the age of reason who is a permanent resident, or on a long term visa, or with a work visa; then this wouldnt be an issue. I think that is the most republican and liberal policy. Unfortunately nationalism gets in the way of that.

    But because of that nationalism in other countries, nationalism can inform a policy of diasporans having Senate representation like the Italians have done. However, the Electoral Act will need to be amended. At the moment if you have been out of the country for more than three years and miss an election, or fail to reregister with the AEC each year, you are purged from the roll. I know of diasporans who have re-registered but due to bureacratic bungling have not made the timeline and been purged anyway. So any policy to add diasporan representatives to the Senate will need to amend the Electoral Act too.

    The other issue with adding representatives in the Senate for the diaspora is that it breaks the ‘federal’ character of the Senate. Even though Australia has nationalised its government, the federal components are important checks and balances on the government gaining too much of a ‘national’ character.

    Like I said I go back and forth on this, but I would probably prefer a policy where the Electoral Act is amended so that anyone one a long term visa, work visa, or permanent resident can vote in Australian elections. Hopefully other countries would follow Australia’s lead if we did that. It would mean that only legislation would need to be amended rather than the constitution as well.

    The downside is that it is probably a tough sell to sensationalists in the media such as the authoritarian gasbags like Akermann, Laws, Jones, Bolt, etc who make decent $$$ from hyper-nationalism.

  29. Sacha says:

    After many attempts, I managed to cajole my 30 yr old brother (who’s living in NZ) to enrol for what I believe is the first time.

  30. Sacha says:

    If Im born in SA and move to NSW I should always vote for the electorate I was born in?

    The hospital booths would be very large.

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