Despite months of fiery debate about the Voice to Parliament referendum, it could be an anxious wait for Australians for the result to be announced.
When voting on the Voice closes at 6pm on October 14, the counting begins.
However, postal and overseas votes have up to 13 days to be received and counted by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), meaning the results may not be finalised until October 27.
And, according to the AEC, postal vote applications are close to 1.2 million.
An AEC spokesperson told news.com.au the commission does not know when a result would be clear, as it depended on how the numbers fell and if there was an overwhelming result on either side.
“We strictly will not be able to open ballot boxes until 6pm (on October 14),” they said. “From 6pm, votes will begin to be counted and results will be shared live as they come in.”
According to the AEC, smaller voting places are expected to have outcomes fairly quickly.
Australians last participated in a referendum in 1999, when they were asked to vote on two proposed laws to alter the constitution. It was clear on referendum night that there would not be a double majority, with overwhelming results in opposition of the two-part proposal.
In 2017, Australians were again asked to partake in a national vote – a plebiscite to legalise same-sex marriage. Unlike the upcoming referendum, the plebiscite was an optional postal vote that was open between September 12 and November 7.
Despite a profound majority in favour of the proposal, it took seven days for a result to be announced, reaching the public on November 15.
The plebiscite confirmed Australia’s want for participation in democracy, receiving votes from 79.52 per cent of eligible voters. Prior to the eligibility cutoff date, a record 98,000 new voters had added themselves to the role to have their say.
The Australian Electoral Commission has seen the largest enrolment in history ahead of the referendum, with a record 97.7 per cent of Aussies set to vote on the Voice.
It is our youngest generations who are leading the charge, with a whopping 91.4 per cent increase in 18 to 24-year-olds enrolling to vote.
This means more than 1.8 million young Aussies will be having their say in their first referendum.
The enrolment of First Nations people is also the highest it has ever been, sitting at 94.1 per cent. This is the first time in Australia’s history it has been above 90 per cent.
This is compared to an enrolment rate of 74.7 per cent in 2017, with the past six months alone accounting for about half of the increase.
There are about 60,000 more Indigenous Australians enrolled to vote than there were at the end of 2022.
You are eligible to apply for a postal vote if you cannot get to a polling place on voting day. The AEC lists several valid reasons a person can apply to postal vote on their website. The cutoff date to apply for a postal vote is the Wednesday before the referendum, being October 11.
Once you apply to do a postal vote, you will receive a voting pack in the mail with instructions. You are able to send back your vote as soon as it is complete but it must be in the post on or before October 14, according to the AEC.
If you will be overseas on referendum day, you can register for a postal vote before you leave. But if you are already overseas, you can still vote, as the AEC – in partnership with DFAT and Austrade – will offer in-person voting in a majority of Australian Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions.
According to the Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers, the service provision for people overseas is the most that has ever been provided for a federal election or referendum in Australia’s history.
Overseas voting will commence on October 2 and the AEC is urging people to start planning their overseas voting as soon as possible. The deadline for legally counting a vote is 13 days after referendum day.