Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Second-class Citizen

My status as an overseas elector for Australian federal elections has been revoked! All Australians living in Australia must vote, but if you move to another country, then voting is no longer compulsory. I left Australia in 2001 and before doing so, applied to be an overseas elector. This gave me the right to vote in the federal elections via a postal vote that was distributed by the local embassy. However, the overseas elector status is only for a limited time period of up to 6 years. If you have not returned to Australia within that time frame, you have to re-register within the 3 months before the present 6 year term has expired. This extends your overseas elector status for only 1 more year. When I left Australia, I had not expected that I would still be living abroad 6 years later. Consequently, I didn't make any sort of note to remind myself to extend my overseas elector status. Now it seems that it is too late. Last week, I received a letter from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) Division of Bruce indicating that my registration as an overseas elector has been cancelled, although my enrolment as an ordinary elector is maintained. I am angry and frustrated that the AEC only sends such a letter after the expiration date. Couldn't they have sent me a reminder that my overseas elector eligibility was about to expire so that I could re-register in time? I am sure there are some people who pay more attention to such things, but I also believe that there are many Australians who have been denied the right to vote due to this absurd situation. In the latter case, many names have also been removed from the electoral role, which then requires the person to re-enrol after one month upon their return to Australia. Although I have chosen to live abroad, it doesn't mean that I have cut all ties from Australia - far from it, in fact. So why am I being made to feel like a second-class citizen?

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