They may be over 5000 kilometres from their nearest polling place in Tasmania, but Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) staff in Antarctica will still have their votes counted this federal election thanks to the AEC and the often extraordinary lengths it goes to in ensuring Australians can have a say on election day.
Senior Observer with the Bureau of Meteorology at Mawson Station, Roelof Hoebee, nominated for Returning Officer with the Australian Electoral Commission in the event of an election and he has called into action.
A long way from his Adelaide home, Mr Hoebee has been working with the Australian Electoral Commission in recent days to ensure the voting process is valid.
“We’ve got 10 registered voters at Mawson Station this year. The ballot papers have been emailed to us as individual files and we print them up,” he said.
“The Senate ballot papers are rather large, particularly from NSW, so we’ll need to print several sheets and assemble them.”
“We have a private area set aside where that can be conducted, the votes will be written down by each individual, and then they will place their votes in an envelope and into the ballot box we have on station.”
At the end of the voting process, Mr Hoebee and the Assistant Returning Officer and I will open the ballot box and based on a formalised process and deliver the results by telephone to the Australian Electoral Commission in Hobart.
“I expect that most expeditioners will be quite excited. It’s a unique experience to cast a vote in an election in Antarctica.”
“The poll will close at 1pm Mawson time, equivalent to 6pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, and we’ll be following throughout the afternoon and perhaps know the result before dinnertime.”
The Australian Electoral Commission’s State Manager David Molnar said making sure Antarctic expeditioners had their say on election day was important.
“The AEC appoints an Antarctic Returning Officer and an Assistant at each station,” he said.
“The results transmitted to the AEC in Hobart are sent to the appropriate divisions around Australia for further processing.”
Photo Caption: Expeditioners line up to vote at Davis research station (photo: Greg Stone/Australian Antarctic Division).