Polar Polling

Thursday 7 October 2004

Australia's most isolated citizens will exercise their democratic rights by voting in Saturday's federal election.

Around 80 Antarctic expeditioners who have spent the past year at Australia's stations - Casey, Davis and Mawson and subantarctic Macquarie Island - will cast their votes along with the rest of the country.

Some time ago, the Australian Electoral Commission appointed two returning officers at each station and forwarded all election material and ballot papers well ahead of voting day.

And when the stations' polls close in Australia's most far-flung territory the returning officers will phone the information to the Australian Electoral Officer in Hobart.

It's a far cry from the old days when expeditioners in Antarctica didn't have the opportunity to vote.

Prior to 1984 there was no provision in the legislation for people in Antarctica to register a vote in either state of federal elections. Besides, communications technology of earlier times was often less than reliable.

For some expeditioners their vote will be one of the last remaining commitments before they return home to family and friends after twelve months in Antarctica.

Casey personnel arrive back in Australia in mid-November. Their colleagues at Mawson and Davis stations will return late December while those on Macquarie Island will not be back until next March when the Australian Antarctic Division's last voyage of the season returns, completing the change over of expeditioners.