Telephone voting for the federal election will be available for voters who are isolating due to coronavirus from Wednesday.

New rules have been introduced allowing people in isolation to cast their vote over the phone.

The Australian Electoral Commission says voters isolating or in quarantine may be eligible to vote over the phone from 6pm on Wednesday to election day on Sunday.

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The AEC says this is an emergency measure that should only be undertaken as a last resort.

“Telephone voting should only be a last resort. Prior to this date, voters who are isolating due to coronavirus can apply for a postal ballot,” the commission said.

If eligible, there are a few steps for people casting their vote over the phone. 

Voters must register on the AEC website, providing personal details and evidence of being a coronavirus-affected voter.

They must declare they have not already voted, and have been required to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19. Voters will choose a PIN and be provided with a registration number. 

The voter must then call the call centre when telephone voting becomes available for them. 

The call centre operator will undertake security checks and will mark the ballot paper in accordance with the voter’s instructions.

The ballot paper is placed in an envelope with the voter’s electorate, and the time and date on which the vote was cast. 

The voter’s name will not be put on the envelope or given to the phone operator, ensuring a secret ballot. 

The envelopes are sorted and forwarded to the appropriate division to be counted four days after polling day. 

Results of telephone votes are published in a separate vote collection point, effectively counting as their own polling place. 

Telephone voting is usually only available to voters who are blind or have low vision. 

Electoral commissioner Tom Rogers said it would not become an “alternative channel” for voting, but rather catered for a very narrow group of voters.

The Parliamentary Library estimates that around 80,000 voters might be eligible for telephone voting over the three days in which it is available.

This story is written by the author in a personal capacity.

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