Voting on Election Day is a tradition for people living in Marble Bar in East Pilbara.
But residents who want to vote on May 21 will have to make a 500km round trip to Port Hedland to express their preference for Durack’s seat.
Residents of Marble Bar may have to drive 500 km to vote if they cannot reach a mobile booth or vote by post at polling booths in remote areas.
The Australian Electoral Commission told them they could have voted on Tuesday in a mobile booth held in the city from 10 am to 1 pm or try a postal ballot.
Failing that, they could make the long drive to Port Hedland.
But residents have described the three-hour voting period as difficult to make, and Marble Bar’s remote location meant mail was often slow and overdue.
Marble Bar usually has a voting booth on election day to serve city residents and people from the surrounding mines, stations, and travelers.
Marble Bar in the East Pilbara normally has polling stations on Election Day, but that is not the case this year. (Provided: Cason Ho)
Yarrie Station owner Annabelle Coppin, who lives 90km north of Marble Bar, said people accepted that living remotely meant traveling long distances to get to the polls.
But she said driving to Port Hedland would take a whole day.
“People are working, so voting on Tuesday is pretty much impossible,” she said.
“People should not be expected to drive 500 km to vote; it should simply be a natural right for Australians to vote in their environment.”
She said voting by mail was an ineffective alternative.
“Our mail vote only arrived this week; it was that late because our mail is so slow,” she said.
Annabelle Coppin, pictured with Simon Coongan, says more needs to be done to make voting accessible in regional Australia. (ABC News: Cason Ho)
Voting ‘a challenge’ in remote areas
Ms. Coppin said rural communities were not a priority for the Australian Election Commission.
“We don’t have that many people [and] there’s not that much of a voice, so you kind of get ripped off, push the chain down, and tell you to put up with it,” she said.
“I don’t think it’s fair, and I don’t think it’s Australian.”
An Australian Election Commission spokesman said elections on election day are more difficult to manage in remote areas.
“As a small, remote location, we cannot always be a static polling station.
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The spokesman said this was largely due to the organization’s ability to recruit staff, secure the buildings, and the need for such a service.
“With a small voting population, mobile voting is often the solution and a significant effort for the Australian Election Commission,” the spokesperson said.
Ms. Coppin said it was a cop not to run polling booths in Marble on Saturday.
“We should have the same voting rights as other Australians,” said Ms. Coppin.
The committee spokesman said changes to voting arrangements had been announced.
But Ms. Coppin said many people had not seen the ads.
“There is a long-held agreement that people can vote in the city on Election Day,” she said.
“People will no doubt show up on Saturday that they can’t vote in the city.”
She said some people wouldn’t be able to vote if driving 500 km was the only way to get to the polls.
Posted 28m ago28 minutes agoWed May 18, 2022, at 2:18 am, updated 14m ago14 minutes agoWed May 18, 2022, at 2:33 am