With a week to go, there are a number of options for residents as they head to the voting booths, whether that’s voting early, by post, on the day or, for some people, over the phone.
When is the election and when do I have to vote?
The NSW state election is on Saturday, March 25.
Voting on the day will take place from 8am to 6pm.
However, anyone can cast an early vote in person during the week leading up to polling day, and postal voters can complete and send off their ballots before the 25th.
What voting options are available?
There are four options available in the NSW election:
• Voting in person on election day
• Early voting in person at a pre-polling station
• Submitting a postal vote
• Telephone-assisted voting, but this is only for people who are blind or have a vision impairment
The NSW Electoral Commission also visits “declared institutions” – select hospitals, nursing homes, aged care homes and the like – allowing residents to vote there.
If you live in one of those and aren’t sure if yours is a declared institution, contact the facility or Electoral Commission for more details.
Online voting was widely used in the 2021 local council elections in NSW.
But it will not be avaliable for this year’s state election.
The Electoral Commission said some voters had experienced issues with the online platform when it made the announcement in March last year, and recommended a “targeted review before internet voting be considered for use at future elections”.
How can I enrol to vote?
Australian citizens aged 18 and over must enrol to vote.
Those aged 16 or 17 can enrol so they’re immediately eligible once they turn 18.
People can still vote in the NSW election if they’re not registered by doing what’s known as a declaration vote.
It is much the same as voting in person but with the added requirement of bringing photo ID that shows the person’s current address.
Early voting in the NSW election begins on Saturday, March 18, and runs for a week, finishing on Friday, March 24.
While there are some criteria for early voting eligibility, in practice anyone can vote early in person by turning up at an early polling station in their own electorate during the pre-polling period.
If you’re out of your district when you go to cast an early vote, you can still go to a polling place in a different electorate and complete what’s known as an absent vote – a form of declaration vote that doesn’t require photo ID.
Residents whose “circumstances make it difficult for you to go to a voting centre on election day” may be eligible for a postal vote.
People who have already registered as a general postal voter will not need to submit a new application; their papers will automatically be mailed out.
For a postal vote to be counted, it must be received by the Electoral Commission by 6pm on Thursday, March 6.
Usually, the deadline is the second Friday after polling day, but it has been brought forward by a single day for this election due to Easter Friday falling on Friday the 7th this year.
There are a number of polling places for voting on election day, as well as pre-polling stations for early voting.
How can you vote from overseas or interstate?
NSW residents who are overseas or interstate during the election have the same early voting options as anyone else.
If you’re still in the state in the week before polling day, you can cast an early vote in person.
Otherwise, you can apply for a postal vote, and the Electoral Commission will be able to mail out your ballot to an interstate or overseas address.
Just keep in mind the deadline for returning those ballots.
The Electoral Commission has to receive them by 6pm on March 6, regardless of whether they’re being mailed back from another state or country.
So if you’re away, it’s best to complete your vote nice and early.
Do I have to vote, and what happens if I don’t?
Yes. Every adult Australian citizen who lives in NSW must vote in the election, unless there is a “sufficient reason” – like catching COVID-19 or otherwise being so unwell you can’t make it to a voting centre – for failing to do so.
The penalty for not voting is a $55 fine, but this can rise to $110 if it is unsuccessfully disputed in court.
If the fine is overdue and referred to Revenue NSW, an extra $65 can be added.