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Government opens phone voting to more COVID-positive Australians


The Australian Electoral Commission has confirmed all people currently isolating with COVID-19 will be able to vote in tomorrow’s federal election after it recommended a change to telephone polling eligibility following complaints from candidates and voters.

The AEC confirmed over-the-phone voting would be extended to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 since Friday, May 13.

Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said every registered Australian would be able to access their vote, despite their isolation requirements.

Phone voting eligibility has been extended on the eve of the federal election. (AEC)

“With many jurisdictions internationally not offering voting services for COVID-positive voters during the pandemic, we’re proud to be delivering the combination of safe and secure voting services for all voters,” Rogers said.

“We heard from community members who did not apply for a postal vote before the deadline, we acted to extend the phone voting service and all COVID-positive voters can vote in the election.”

People who are unable to attend voting stations due to having COVID-19 can register for a phone ballot through the AEC website.

The loophole in the original regulations could have seen thousands of COVID-positive voters left unable to cast their ballot

Originally, only people who tested positive to COVID-19 after 6pm on Tuesday this week could be eligible for phone voting.

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People who tested positive to the virus before that deadline, but did not register for a postal vote before applications closed on 6pm this Wednesday, would be unable to cast a phone ballot.

This meant potentially thousands of voters could be left in isolation on Saturday with no way of participating in the democratic process.

The federal government confirmed today it would back the AEC’s recommendation to extend phone voting eligibility less than 24 hours before polls open tomorrow.
Independent for Kooyong Dr Monique Ryan at Camberwell Junction in Melbourne, standing in front of billboards of Josh Frydenberg.
Independent for Kooyong Dr Monique Ryan has said she will continue her legal challenge around COVID-positive voter eligibility. (AFR)

The recommendation came after the independent candidate for Kooyong, Monique Ryan, announced last night she would launch a legal challenge against Special Minister for State Ben Morton to ensure COVID-positive Australians were not shut out of voting.

Ryan raised over $125,000 to fund that action, and said earlier today her campaign would offer a refund of all “unspent” funds to donors as soon as possible.

“Some donors have indicated that they don’t want refunds. In that event, we will donate any remaining funds to a charitable legal advocacy fund to keep fighting for all Australians’ ability to vote,” she said.

“We have shared this information with all the donors to our legal fund and will be contacting them to discuss their options within the next few days.”

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