The referendum on the Voice to Parliament will be held on Saturday, the 14th of October 2023.
We have provided information for the Deaf community on how a Referendum works including how it is made, how to vote, and what happens after Australia has voted. All content within this video was based on publicly available information on the AEC website and was translated into Auslan by Expression Australia.
More information on the Referendum can be found on the AEC website: www.aec.gov.au/referendums
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How to vote in a Referendum
On October 14th, all Australian citizens aged 18 and over will vote for Yes or No for the Voice to Parliament.
A referendum is a national vote on a question about a proposed change to the Constitution.
All Australian citizens aged 18 and over must vote.
It’s been quite a while since we held a referendum – the last was over 20 years ago in 1999.
How a Referendum proposal is decided
Federal Parliament decides on the proposed change to the Constitution to put to voters.
A proposed law outlining the changes to the Constitution must be passed by both houses of Parliament - the lower house and the Senate, or passed twice in either house.
A referendum must then be held no sooner than two months and no later than six months after the bill has passed Parliament.
How the vote is conducted
The Governor-General issues a writ, the formal instruction to run the referendum, which, like an election, must be held on a Saturday.
A referendum can be held at the same time as a federal election but can also be held as a stand-alone event.
There can be a single referendum question or several proposed changes to the Constitution for voters to consider at the same time.
How the result is decided
The proposed change to the Constitution must be approved by a ‘double majority’, which is:
- a national majority of voters (more than 50%) from all states and territories, and
- a majority of voters (more than 50%) in a majority of states (at least four of the six states).
The result is binding. This means the Australian Government must act on what voters decide.
The votes of people living in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory count towards the national majority only.
Is it all counted on the night?
Is it all counted on the night?
No, this isn’t possible.
The access provided to people to vote away from their home division or state/territory, internationally or by post means votes take time to travel back and be counted.
While the count itself is easier than a federal election, formal vs informal, yes vs no, there are still logistical considerations that mean a clear indication of a final result may take days or even weeks.
In addition, just like a federal election, every vote will be counted more than once to check that the initial count was correct, and all counting happens in front of party-appointed scrutineers.
Once the count is complete
Once the counting process is finished, the AEC will return the writ, the formal instruction to run the referendum, to the Governor-General with a certificate from the Electoral Commissioner setting out the result of the vote for each state and territory and nationally.
If the referendum is approved by a double majority of Australian voters, this is the final step in approving the Bill setting out the changes to the Constitution that was passed by federal Parliament.
This Bill will be presented to the Governor-General for assent. An Act to change the Constitution comes into operation on the day the approved Bill receives assent unless the Act itself says something different.
If the referendum is not passed by a double majority of Australian voters the Bill previously passed by Parliament setting out the proposed changes to the Constitution is not approved and can’t be presented to the Governor-General for assent.
When to vote and early voting
Referendum voting day will be Saturday 14 October 2023.
Just like at a federal election, the AEC will open thousands of polling places around the country.
Polling places will be open between 8am and 6pm, local time, on voting day.
You can cast your vote at any polling place within your state or territory.
If you're interstate on polling day and need to cast your vote, you will need to visit a designated interstate voting centre.
Also, you can vote early.
The early voting will begin on Monday 2 October in the following states and territories:
- Northern Territory
- Western Australia
Early voting will begin on Tuesday 3 October in the following states and territories due to a public holiday on the Monday 2 October:
- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- South Australia
Hundreds of early voting centres will progressively open and be available over the two weeks before voting day.
You can vote early either in person or by post if on voting day you:
- are outside the electorate where you are enrolled to vote
- are more than eight kilometres from a polling place
- are travelling
- are unable to leave your workplace to vote on voting day
- are seriously ill, infirm or due to give birth shortly, or caring for someone who is
- are a patient in hospital and can't vote at the hospital
- have religious beliefs that prevent you from attending a polling place
- are in prison serving a sentence of less than three years or otherwise detained
- are a silent elector
- have a reasonable fear for your safety or wellbeing
Completing the ballot paper
At a referendum, you will receive a ballot paper with the proposed alteration to the Constitution on it, followed by a question asking if you approve the proposed alteration.
On the referendum ballot paper you need to indicate your vote by clearly writing:
- YES in the box if you approve the proposed alteration, or
- NO in the box if you do not approve the proposed alteration.
There is a sample ballot paper to practise voting in a Referendum.
Submit the answer that you have written in the box to see if your answer will result in a formal vote.
Can you use a tick or cross to vote in a referendum?
This tool does not recognise symbols, and it important to write a 'yes' or 'no' vote.
Don't leave your vote up to chance or to be potentially questioned. Make your vote count.