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Australia has compulsory voting in federal elections, by-elections and referendums. With a few exceptions, if you're an Australian citizen resident in Australia, you have to vote.

If you move abroad, you can still register and vote from overseas, as long as you're planning to come back within 6 years.

Let's say you've been gone longer than that, living abroad as an expat, but you're back in Australia during an election. How does compulsory voting work in this case?

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It depends on how long you've been overseas. from the AEC:

  • if you're just visiting overseas for a short time, and plan to return, you can enrol and vote
  • if you are already overseas, you can enrol to vote from overseas
  • if you're enrolled, you can register as an overseas voter IF you intend to return to Australia within six years

and the one most appropriate for what you're asking: - if you are not enrolled, and have been overseas for less than three years, you may still be eligible to enrol if you are:

  • an Australian citizen aged 18 years or older,
  • intending to return to Australia within six years

Basically by law, unless you have a VALID excuse (as decided by the AEC) you need to enrol to vote, and the above options show you the various ways in which you can enrol. If you're back in the country while living overseas, you should either have enrolled overseas, or in preparation for being in the country during the election, you can use your address while in the country.

  • Just to clarify, if you're not enrolled overseas, haven't been living in Australia for several years, and don't intend to return to living in Australia, but happen to be back in the country at an election, do you need to register at wherever you're staying, or is the long-term-abroad thing the valid excuse? – Gagravarr Mar 15 '14 at 5:55
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    From the reading, I gather you're required to enrol unless it's been more than six years away (about two election cycles, usually) – Mark Mayo Mar 15 '14 at 6:02

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