Phoning it in

People who are isolating at home due to having COVID will have the option to place their federal election vote over the phone. 

Initially, this voting option was only be available for voters who tested positive for COVID-19 after 6:01pm Tuesday, meaning anyone who tested positive between Saturday and Tuesday night was not eligible to vote by this method.

However, after a backlash from electors, the federal government agreed to change the rules so that anyone who had been is isolation as of 6pm last Friday could do a phone vote.

COVID safe procedures in place at early polling centres. Photo: Jess Gatenby.

Voting over the phone is usually an option limited to blind and vision-impaired voters.

This new way of voting has a few steps involved for people to be able to get their votes in on time.

People in COVID isolation will now be able to vote over the phone. Photo: Jess Gatenby.

Firstly, people will have to register as a telephone voter on the AEC website, with registrations open from 6:01pm Wednesday, and closing Saturday May 21. 

Once you have registered, a unique code will be given to you. 

Your vote will then be registered in the system.

Many campaign posters and signs are around the state before the upcoming election. Photo: Jess Gatenby.

Australian Electoral Commission communication officer Joshua Watson says the voting process will be quite different.

“We have designed the system with security in mind and thus the process may not be as smooth or as quick as voting at a polling place. We hope voters will understand the system is as emergency measure for COVID positive voters who have no other options,” says Mr Watson.

“Voters may request their call not be listened to. The method ensures the principals of a secret ballot and electoral integrity are followed.

“The impact of the continuing pandemic adds complexity to conducting what is already Australia’s largest peacetime logistical exercise. Australian voters can have confidence in the voting options available this election – including the emergency measures implemented with the secure telephone voting process.” 

Perth student Amy Figueiredo, who is currently COVID-positive and in isolation, says she is disappointed she won’t be able to vote in person for the first time.

“I think overall the mobile voting takes away from the experience. This was my first time voting so I was interested to feel the atmosphere and see what it is all about,” she says.

“I’m still a bit confused on how I actually do the whole process. It’s a bit annoying but I’m glad I still have the opportunity to do it.”

Ms Figueiredo says she has some reservations about the reliability and safety of phone voting.

“It’s definitely crossed my mind about my vote being tampered which is why this isn’t the ideal option. There isn’t really a way to know so I’m hoping there is a solid system set up with an impartial person on the other side like they have when counting the votes or have the call on speaker so someone else in the room can hear,” she says.

Full-time Perth worker Allysha Botha, who is isolating with COVID, also had some concerns.

“It doesn’t deter me from voting but I think it puts more pressure on who to vote for and being prepared to say the right things over the phone,” she says.

“I think it’s obviously better than spreading the virus, but it is a bit confusing and I am not sure how to go about it all.”

People who tested positive for COVID-19 between Saturday and Tuesday were eligible to vote by post, but postal voting has now closed.