All signed up: SCU students Nick Hunter (left) and Ryan Holding have been enrolled to vote since they turned 18, after the enrolment forms were mailed out to them by the Australian Electoral Commission.
All signed up: SCU students Nick Hunter (left) and Ryan Holding have been enrolled to vote since they turned 18, after the enrolment forms were mailed out to them by the Australian Electoral Commission. Cathy Adams

Young left behind in race to polls

AROUND half a million young people will not have a chance to vote in the August 21 Federal election.

After the election was called by Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Saturday, first-time voters only had until 8pm last night to enrol.

People wanting to update their personal details have until 8pm on Thursday.

A large proportion of those Australians not enrolled are youths, with 18- to 24-year-olds making up only eight per cent of total enrolled voters in the Richmond and Page electorates.

On a larger scale, according to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), out of the 1.4 million Australians not enrolled to vote, 70pc of them are 18- to 39-year-olds.

Nick Hunter, 19, and Peter Clark, 21, both of Lismore, enrolled when they were 18 after receiving an AEC leaflet in the mail when they came of voting age.

“If you really want people to vote you should probably have more time for them to enrol after an election is called,” Nick said.

“It would be better, but I think they have made it easy already for people to enrol. But I wouldn't have enrolled if it wasn't sent to me.”

A study complied by the AEC – the Youth Electoral Study – found youth were disengaged from voting, which Peter and Nick believe is because youth are not interested in politics.

“I watched the Rudd and Gillard thing pretty closely, but that was only because I was up watching the soccer,” Peter said. “I will definitely look into who to vote for, but I am not passionate about it.

“I think if you were passionate about politics it would be frustrating not having enough time to enrol. But most of my friends are already enrolled.”

Nick chipped in, saying: “I know we have a woman Prime Minister and that is about the extent of my knowledge.

“I will probably make my decision about who to vote for the day before the election.

“I watched (politicians) in Parliament once and they were very childish. It's ironic what makes and governs our country is childish.”

Australian political activist group Get Up! is working with a group of Australians, including two locals, to consider their options on how to legally challenge the AEC in a bid to make enrolling to vote easier.

An AEC spokesman said it received a large influx of people trying to enrol yesterday, and there were reports the AEC fax line was almostimpossible to get through to due to high usage.

Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin said Labor had attempted to extend the enrolment grace period after an election was called.

“But the Coalition is still trying to make it as hard as possible for voters to have their say,” Ms Saffin said.



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