The votes that didn’t tally up: the non-enrolled voters


There’s a group of eligible Australian voters who could have shaped the election – if they had turned up.

You’ve probably heard about politicians trying to secure the “young voters” or the first-time voters. Perhaps even heard them jostling over position on the ballot paper to secure that converted spot atop the page for a donkey voter.

But there’s a niche group of the population out there that perhaps politicians have neglected to secure – the non-enrolled voters.

Who am I talking about?

Lifelong non-enrolled voters like 67-year-old Janet Wilkinson from Kew, Victoria.

“No, I haven’t enrolled, I remember I might’ve been a 20-year-old at my first election and I just didn’t feel any interest in the vote and haven’t since.”

Has she ever been caught? (If you do not vote at a State or local government election and you don’t have a valid reason, you will be fined $55.)

“No, not yet.”

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) role is to make sure people like Janet are enrolled to vote.

According to the AEC, at the federal election a total of 536,089 of the voting age were not enrolled to vote, enough to change a number of seats.

The AEC’s goal is to ensure that 95% of eligible Australians are on the electoral roll at all times, in accordance with the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

Victoria represents 25% of the non-enrolled voters nationally.


At the federal election, the smallest demographic to vote were the 18-19 year old’s making up 410,077 of the 16,424,248 enrolled voters.

Saul Mansfield, a 19-year-old from the South Australian electorate of Sturt didn’t vote on Saturday he told D-Scribe his reasons:

“I want my vote to go the Greens but the fact that on preferences my vote goes to Labor or Liberal I don’t think that’s right.”

Is this a stance he’s willing to change?

“Yeah for sure, if any of the big two fall in line with how I feel and wanted to be represented than definitely.”

Mansfield’s perspective is echoed by young people, it has been reported that a record low early votes were cast by young people this year.

Among other Australians passing on their democratic rights is Lydia Thompson – a 46-year-old vote dodger from Berwick, Victoria. Thompson says she has no plans to enrol.

“I won’t be voting any-time soon, I’ve never really cared about politics and I’ll prefer to stay out of the process.”

But there will be plenty of people who turned up on Saturday and voted that will not have their vote count. Statistics at the 2016 Federal Election found that nearly 4% of all voters cast an informal ballot for the senate.

On Saturday as I cast my vote, I spoke with local community member John-Michael Talle in the Macnamara electorate, a retiree putting on the local sausage sizzle.

“People that aren’t enrolled are missing out on a great community experience. No matter who you vote for or what your views are we’re able to get together and exercise our freedoms. This is what previous generations fought so hard for and still in some places in the world you can’t do. It’s fantastic.”

Over half a million Australians passed on enrolling at this year’s election, it remains a great opportunity for the political parties out there to win them over and have them enrolled in 2022. In Deakin’s own electorate of Chisholm, the 5,000 eligible voters could have been the difference for the Labor party trying to pinch the seat from the Liberal party.



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