Voting in Federal, State and Local Government Elections


Information About Voting

What is voting?

The right to vote is one of the key features of living in a democratic country. The right to vote means that the people living in Australia are allowed to have a say in who runs the country. It is a chance for Australians to vote for who represents them in the Federal Parliament, State Parliament and Local Government.

Can I vote?

Voting in both federal and state elections is compulsory for all Australian citizens aged 18 and over. If you are under 18 years old, you are not allowed to vote yet. However, if you are 17 years old, you may enrol so that you will be in the electoral roll when the time has come for you to vote.

More about voting

In a federal election, the voters ‘elect’ people to represent them in the Australian Federal Parliament in Canberra. The election is held every three years. The voters choose ‘members’ to represent all Australians in the two houses of Parliament (the House of Representatives and the Senate). Australia is divided into 150 electorates and one person is chosen from each electorate (area) to represent it in the House of Representatives. The Senate is made up of 76 senators, twelve from each state and two from each territory (ACT and NT). 

In a state election, the voters are voting for people to represent them in the State Parliament (the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council). Queensland is the only state which does not also have a Legislative Council. State elections are held every four years (but every three years in Queensland). For the Legislative Assembly, voters nominate one candidate to represent their electoral district. Voters also vote for the candidates they wish to represent their state in the Legislative Council.

Should young people under 18 be allowed to vote?

In recent years, there has been a push to lower the voting age to give the next generation of Australians a greater voice in the political process. Despite suggestions that young people are uninformed and overly influenced by their parents’ decisions, there remain ample reasons for lowering the voting age to 16. By this stage of their lives, many young people are already working, paying taxes and feeling the effects of government policies. On key issues that affect them now and into the future – such as education and climate change – young people should be able to have a say, even if they are not yet 18. Reducing the voting age was one of the top recommendations at a national summit convened by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last year. As recently as July this year, a draft proposal has been put forward to make voting voluntary for 16- and 17-year-olds.

You can find more information about voting on the Australian Electoral Commission website:http://www.aec.gov.au

This page was last reviewed in September 2009