VICTORIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION

VICTORIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION
VICTORIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION


Barriers to enrolment and voting, and electronic voting,
      among Arabic-speaking and Turkish communities


                                                                    Full Report




                                                                         July 2012

                        Head Office (Sydney): Level 1, 93 Norton St, Leichhardt NSW 2040
                  Melbourne Office: L14, Como Centre, 644 Chapel St, South Yarra VIC 3141
                                                                        ABN: 30 065 353 951
VICTORIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION: BARRIERS TO ENROLMENT AND VOTING, AND
                                                              ELECTRONIC VOTING, AMONG ARABIC-SPEAKING AND TURKISH COMMUNITIES




Table of contents


Executive summary ...................................................................................................................................... 3

1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 6

2. Methodology ......................................................................................................................................... 6

3. Background information .......................................................................................................................... 8

4. Participant profile ................................................................................................................................... 9

5. Enrolment ............................................................................................................................................. 11

6. Voting .................................................................................................................................................. 18

7. Electronically assisted voting ................................................................................................................. 31

8. iPad application .................................................................................................................................... 33

9. Information sources ............................................................................................................................. 41

10. Recommendations .............................................................................................................................. 43

Appendix - Discussion guide....................................................................................................................... 45




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Executive summary
In June 2012 research was conducted to investigate the barriers to enrolment and voting, and the scope for
electronically assisted voting, among Arabic-speaking and Turkish Victorians. The research was
commissioned by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) as part of their commitment to reduce the
barriers to electoral participation amongst Arabic-speaking and Turkish Victorians. Focus group
methodology was employed for this project, with eight focus groups conducted with Arabic-speaking
participants and two with Turkish participants. The key findings and recommendations presented in this
report are summarised below.


Key findings

Enrolment
    Most of the enrolled participants felt it was important for them to be enrolled as a matter of
     democratic participation and citizenship.

    All participants knew that to be eligible to enrol you had to be over 18 years old and an Australian
     citizen. About one-third, however, felt that enrolment was not compulsory, but voting was compulsory
     once you were enrolled.

    Most participants enrolled when they received their citizenship. The process was felt to be
     straightforward, and the form simple and easy to complete. Participants also said it was easy to get
     assistance with the form if they were not confident to complete it themselves.

    Reasons given by those who had not enrolled for not enrolling included wanting more information
     about voting in Australia before completing and returning forms at citizenship ceremonies, being
     unsure how to complete the form, or not being asked to enrol when they received citizenship.

    The primary barrier to enrolment discussed was language. The not enrolled group spoke of language as
     a barrier to understanding the electoral system. Other barriers identified included not understanding
     the system even when English proficient, political disillusionment and concerns over being fined.

    It was thought the enrolment process could be improved by increasing understanding of enrolment
     through community education campaigns and improved availability of translated information.


Voting
    Nearly all enrolled participants had voted in elections in Australia. These included council, state and
     federal elections.
    Knowledge of the electoral system was mixed, with most not being confident in their knowledge or
     ability to explain the system to others. Knowledge of early voting and absentee voting seemed
     relatively low.
    Nearly all participants said they copied the how to vote cards for the candidate or party they wanted to
     vote for. They felt this made the process easier, and reduced the potential for them to make mistakes.


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    A minority of participants admitted to submitting a blank or informal vote in the past, most were due to
     not knowing what to do, with a few doing so purposefully in protest. Those who knew at the time that
     they had made mistakes did not know whether they could get a new form.
    Family and community played an important role in voting amongst the Arabic-speaking and Turkish
     communities in relation to providing assistance to vote.
    Voting in secret was not seen to be important for most participants, particularly in light of receiving or
     giving assistance and wanting to vote correctly.
    Concerns over being fined arose multiple times during discussions on voting.
    The main barriers to voting included language and literacy and not understanding the system.
     Additional barriers identified were queues , mobility and transport availability.
    It was thought the voting process could be improved by the availability of online voting at home and
     community education and language assistance. Logistic improvements such as reducing queues and
     giving people more notice were also suggested.


Electronically assisted voting
    Almost all participants had never heard of electronically assisted voting.

    Overall, most participants found it difficult to engage with and/or navigate the iPad application.

    Participants raised a range of concerns about the barriers people would experience in using the iPad
     application to vote. Largely these related to the difficulty the target group would have with using the
     technology, and the lengthy time and greater complexity compared to paper voting.

    It was generally felt that the application would not be appropriate or accessible for the target group of
     those with low English literacy. Language and literacy featured as the primary barriers identified.

    Additional concerns were raised to do with security, cost to the government and logistic issues.

    Positive elements identified related to the availability of how to vote cards and candidate information,
     being able to make corrections if you have not voted correctly and verbal instructions in language.

    Participants also recognised that the application would not allow voters to submit an informal vote.
     This prompted a mixed reaction.


Key recommendations
    Increase knowledge and education of enrolment, voting and the Australian electoral system among
     Arabic-speaking and Turkish communities through community education sessions, ethnic media and
     the improved availability of translated information (see recommendations 1 to 2).

    Enrolment education in these communities should address confusion over whether or not enrolment is
     compulsory, and whether those who did not enrol at citizenship are fined for significantly delayed
     enrolment (see recommendations 3 to 5).




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VICTORIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION: BARRIERS TO ENROLMENT AND VOTING, AND
                                                       ELECTRONIC VOTING, AMONG ARABIC-SPEAKING AND TURKISH COMMUNITIES

    Voting education among these communities should aim to increase knowledge of early voting and
     absentee voting, what to do if you have made a mistake on your voting form, what to do once you
     receive a fine, and voting options for those with reduced mobility and other impairments (see
     recommendations 6 to 9).

    Given the negative response to electronic voting, it is recommended that the VEC does not pursue
     electronically assisted voting for those with low English literacy. The key reasons relate to accessibility,
     appropriateness and acceptability (see recommendations 10 to 12).

.




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                                                       ELECTRONIC VOTING, AMONG ARABIC-SPEAKING AND TURKISH COMMUNITIES



Part A - Project outline
1. Introduction
The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) has commissioned research to help reduce the barriers to
electoral participation amongst Arabic-speaking and Turkish Victorians. Specifically, the purpose and
objectives of this project are outlined below.


1.1 Purpose
To investigate the barriers to enrolment and voting, and the scope for electronically assisted voting, among
Arabic-speaking and Turkish Victorians.


1.2 Objectives
The objectives for the project are to:
     1. Identify barriers to enrolment and voting among Arabic and Turkish Victorians;
     2. Identify the scope for electronically assisted voting; and
     3. Record proposals for legislative and service improvements from each of the above groups.


2. Methodology
Focus group methodology was employed for this project. Given the nature of focus testing electronic
voting, along with time and resource constraints, it was deemed that focus groups were most appropriate
approach for this research. Groups included six to eight participants. Based on CIRCA’s experience, we have
found that groups of this size work well as people are often more comfortable to discuss and share their
input.


2.1 Discussion guide
A discussion guide was developed to facilitate discussion in the focus groups. The guide was developed
drawing on previous CIRCA experience investigating barriers to electoral participation amongst culturally
and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities in Victoria. The guide underwent internal peer review and
was further refined following feedback from the Victorian Electoral Commission.

The guide was developed to address the project objectives, whilst also designed to:

         Accommodate varying levels of literacy and numeracy;
         Accommodate the different age brackets of participants; and
         Handle sensitive topics appropriately.




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2.2 Study participants
Ten focus groups were conducted as described in table 1. All focus groups were conducted in Melbourne
given that more than 90% of those from each of these groups reside in Melbourne (see table 2). All
participants were Australian citizens aged 18 years or older, i.e. eligible to enrol to vote.

Table 1: Sample Framework
Country of birth                    Main language  Voting enrolment               Age     English       Gender   SES
                                    spoken at home status                                 proficiency
1.   Lebanon                        Arabic                 Enrolled to vote       18-44   Mixed         Mixed    Mixed
2.   Egypt & Lebanon                Arabic                 Enrolled to vote       45-64   Low           Mixed    Mixed
3.   Egypt & Lebanon                Arabic                 Enrolled to vote       65+     Low           Mixed    Mixed
4.   Sudan                          Arabic                 Enrolled to vote       18+     Mixed         Male     Mixed
5.   Sudan                          Arabic                 Enrolled to vote       18+     Mixed         Female   Mixed
6.   Iraq                           Arabic                 Enrolled to vote       18-29   Mixed         Male     Mixed
7.   Iraq                           Arabic                 Enrolled to vote       30+     Mixed         Female   Mixed
8.   Mixed (Lebanon,                Arabic                 Not enrolled           Mixed   Mixed         Mixed    Mixed
     Egypt, Iraq and Sudan)
9.   Turkey                         Turkish                Enrolled to vote       30-49   Mixed         Mixed    Mixed
10. Turkey                          Turkish                Enrolled to vote       50+     Mixed         Mixed    Mixed

The segmentation of the groups was designed to reflect the country of birth, age, population size and
citizenship levels among the communities (see table 2 for community demographic characteristics).

Participants born in Egypt and Lebanon were combined in the same groups, given the similar migration
history and age profile of these groups. However, for the younger group (18-44 years, group 1), only those
born in Lebanon were included given the older profile of those born in Egypt.

Given the difficulty of finding people who are not enrolled to vote, yet eligible to do so, the ‘not enrolled’
group was conducted with Arabic-speakers from a range of cultural backgrounds (group 8). A ‘not enrolled’
group from the Turkish community was not included due to the smaller relative size of this community.


2.3 Focus group recruitment and facilitation
In terms of recruiting participants for this research, CIRCA worked closely with local CALD researchers to
recruit participants and ensure that issues of consent were addressed in culturally appropriate ways (e.g.
participants felt comfortable taking part in the research, participants clearly understood why the research
was being conducted and how the findings will be used). Only participants who met the agreed criteria for
the project were recruited, as outlined above.

Each group was facilitated by a bilingual researcher. This helped to ensure that the research was sensitive
to the needs of participants, and that they felt comfortable contributing to the group discussion openly.


2.4 Focus group duration, incentives and location
Each focus group was approximately 90 minutes in duration, with participants given a $60 cash
reimbursement for their time, and to cover transport costs. The groups were held at venues in Melbourne
that were convenient and known to participants, such as local community organisations. All sessions were
audio recorded.


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3. Background information
The principal function of the Victorian Electoral Commission is to conduct elections for the Parliament of
Victoria, including State and Local Government elections. As part of this function a key objective of the VEC
is to maximise informed and effective participation in elections by all eligible Victorians. The VEC has a
range of operational, information and education programs to achieve this aim.
While more than 90% of eligible Victorians are enrolled to vote, with more than 90% of enrolled voters
voting in State elections, the VEC recognises that voters from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)
backgrounds face particular barriers to voting participation. In response, strategies were implemented in
the lead up to the 2010 State election, including community education sessions to 64 CALD community
groups, advertising in ethic media, multi-language information on their website and employing nearly 3000
multi-lingual election officials. These strategies demonstrated some success in reducing the informal rate in
areas with high levels of low English proficiency. Despite these improvements, there is still an association
between informal voting and lack of proficiency in English.
In the lead-up to the 2010 State election, legislative amendment enabled electronic voting by electors who
could not vote without assistance due to insufficient literacy skills. Electronically assisted voting was
available at 101 early voting centres across Victoria, with voters being able to read or hear voting
instructions in one of 12 languages. However, despite an information campaign utilising ethnic media, take-
up of electronically assisted voting by CALD voters was minimal.
Given the association between informal voting and low English proficiency, and the low uptake of
electronically assisted voting among CALD voters, further information is required on the barriers to voting,
including electronically assisted voting, faced by Arabic and Turkish Victorians.
In Victoria, 55 931 people spoke Arabic at home as at the 2006 census, making this the sixth largest
language group, with substantial growth of 18.55% occurring between the 2001 and 2006 census. The
Arabic-speaking community comprises of a range of diverse cultural groups, the most significant of which
are those born in Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Sudan. Turkish is the eighth most common language spoken at
home in Victoria, with 29 748 people speaking this language at home as at the 2006 census. The Turkish-
speaking community is largely comprised of those born in Turkey or with Turkish ancestry. The table below
details the demographic profile of those born in the above mentioned Arabic-speaking countries and
Turkey.

Table 2: Demographic profile for each proposed CALD community, Victoria
Country of birth        Population size         Resides in             Median age    Low English       Australian
                                                Melbourne                            proficiency       citizenship
Lebanon                 14 945                  96.8%                  40 years      20.5%             89.4%
Egypt                   11 583                  94.7%                  56 years      9.6%              89.3%
Iraq                    8 614                   92.1%                  34 years      28.2%             73.5%
Sudan                   6 211                   94.6%                  22 years      33.7%             38.2%
Turkey                  15 286                  91.6%                  42 years      31.8%             86.3%
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006 Household and Population Census




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Part B - Results
4. Participant profile
As indicated by table 3, the target of the sample including a range of participants, with varying age and
English proficiency, across the Arabic-speaking and Turkish communities in Victoria, was achieved. Below is
a description of the overall profile of participants. In total 65 participants participated in 10 focus groups.


4.1 Demographic characteristics
The average age of participants was 45 years old (SD = 15.8 years). Participants ranged from 18 to 79 years
old. Forty-three percent of participants were male. All participants spoke a language other than English at
home. English proficiency was mixed, with just over half speaking English well, and half reading English
well.


4.2 Voting characteristics
There was a mix in relation to how long participants had been enrolled. Just over half had been enrolled for
more than five years, with 30 participants being enrolled for five years or less. There was also a mix in
relation to how confident participants felt that they knew how to vote correctly. More than half did not
feel confident or did not know if they were confident, and 27 participants said they were confident they
knew how to vote correctly.




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Table 3: Participant characteristics
                                                      Number                      Valid Percentage
Gender
 Male                                                 28                          43
 Female                                               37                          57

Language usually spoke at home
  Arabic                                              43                          66
  Turkish                                             16                          25
  Bari                                                6                           9

Spoken English proficiency
 Very well                                            7                           11
 Well                                                 30                          46
 Not well                                             27                          42
 Not at all                                           1                           1

Reading English proficiency
 Very well                                            7                           11
 Well                                                 25                          38
 Not well                                             28                          43
 Not at all                                           5                           8

Length of time enrolled
  Less than 1 year                                    5                           8
  1 to 5 years                                        25                          38
  6 to 10 years                                       9                           14
  More than 10 years                                  19                          29
  Not enrolled                                        7                           11

Confidence in voting correctly
 Very confident                                       5                           8
 Confident                                            22                          35
 Not confident                                        29                          46
 Don’t know                                           9                           11
 Missing                                              (2)




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5. Enrolment

5.1 Attitudes to enrolment
Most of the enrolled participants felt it was important for them to be enrolled as a matter of democratic
participation and citizenship. Comments were mostly related to having a say in the country’s leadership
and having their voices heard.
    I understand that to vote is important because at the end of the day I need to vote for someone who is of
    benefit to me and my community – Sudanese female
    Of course it is important to have a voice with your vote. This is our country now and we need to be heard –
    Iraqi participant (aged 18-29)
Other themes included participating in a democracy, it being a privilege not to be taken for granted, and it
being one’s duty as a citizen.
    It is important to have a say in who is running this country. This is about democracy and people around
    the world are killing each other to get this – Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)
    If you don’t enrol to vote you are not taking your citizenship seriously – Sudanese male
A minority did not feel it was important for them to be enrolled. The most negative were the younger Iraqi
group where three participants did not feel it was important because they were disillusioned or did not feel
their vote made a difference.
    I know it is important to have a voice but it is not going to make a difference, it’s all bull**** - Iraqi
    participant (aged 18-29)
    The fact is we know it is important but lately we are very disillusioned with the quality of politicians in both
    state and federal government so that is why we are not happy having to vote for anyone - Iraqi participant
    (aged 18-29)
Other participants felt it was not important as they believed enrolment should happen automatically.
    It’s silly to enrol to vote. As soon as you turn 18 or become an Australian citizen, it should be that you are
    automatically enrolled to vote. – Turkish 30-49
Participants provided similar sentiments when asked about why they enrolled. Reasons for enrolling
included it being compulsory and wanting to have a say in who governs Australia. One participant in the
younger Iraqi group asked if it was possible to remove themselves from the electoral roll.

    I enrolled because I thought it would be good to have a say in who is governing this country, but it didn’t
    work, we still have stupid people in government – Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)
    I enrolled because I thought it was compulsory – Iraqi participant (aged 18-29)

As expected, none of the participants in the not enrolled group felt it was important to be enrolled.
Comments mostly related to the poor quality of politicians. Other comments included voting should not be
compulsory in a democracy and attitudes related to not coming from a democratic background.
    I don’t think the politicians here are worth our vote – not enrolled
    In a democracy you should not be forced to vote – not enrolled
    We came from a background that even if we did vote, our vote would not be counted... – not enrolled




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5.3 Knowledge of enrolment
All participants knew that to be eligible to enrol you had to be over 18 years old and an Australian citizen.
The older Egyptian/Lebanese group felt you also needed to be of sound mind. Two in the younger Turkish
group thought you could enrol if you were an Australian resident. There was uncertainty for one participant
as she was fined for not voting in a council election before she became an Australian citizen.
    My husband and I bought a property when we first came to Melbourne and we didn’t know we had to vote
    and we got fined $40 each...We weren’t Australian citizens and I think it was a local Council election. We
    didn’t know we could vote. – Egyptian/Lebanese aged 65+

There was greater confusion in relation to whether enrolment was compulsory or not. Most participants
felt that enrolment was compulsory. About one-third, however, felt that enrolment was not compulsory,
but voting was compulsory once you were enrolled. In group discussions that explored this, some cited
enrolment forms being distributed at citizenship ceremonies as evidence that it was compulsory.

    To me I think it is compulsory because when you get your citizenship there are always electoral people
    waiting around to enrol you and collect your forms – Sudanese male
    Once you are on the enrolment you must vote but it is not compulsory to enrol – Egyptian/Lebanese
    participant (aged 65+)


5.4 Enrolment process
Most participants enrolled when they received their citizenship. Enrolment forms were distributed at the
citizenship ceremony, which were often completed and returned on the night. Some said that forms were
posted to them after they became citizens. Others said they received the form either in the post, from the
post office, or someone who came to their door. They then filled it out and returned it by post. Several
younger participants enrolled after they received letters in the mail when they turned 17 informing them
they needed to enrol. Older participants also mentioned their children receiving letters in the mail when
they turned 17, several female participants also had concerns as to how the government knew to send
these letters to their children (Egyptian/Lebanese participant (aged 45-64) group, Sudanese female group).
    For me when I became a citizen I was told about enrolment and given forms to fill. – Sudanese male
    My son got a happy birthday letter also when he turned 17. I want to know how do they know his birthday
    and to send him this letter? – Sudanese female
    Actually I remember someone knocked on our door and asked how many people live here over 18 and gave
    forms for us all to fill – Iraqi participant (aged 18-29)
All groups felt the process was not difficult and straightforward. The form was said to be simple and easy to
complete. They recalled the form asked for basic information including name, address and date of birth.
Some participants identified that you can enrol at the post office, electoral office or by contacting
immigration, and that identification was required.

    Those people, who haven’t enrolled yet, can enrol at the post office. The form is available and it does not
    need a stamp – Turkish 50+
Participants also said it was easy to get assistance with the form if they were not confident to complete it
themselves. Help was mostly received from family or friends. Some described receiving help from the
general community, people at the post office, and people at the citizenship ceremony. A few could not
remember how they enrolled to vote.



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    Even with my limited English at the time I was able to fill in the form with my personal details – Lebanese
    participant (aged 18-44)
    If people don’t have good English at the time of enrolling there is always someone there to help you fill in
    the form – Sudanese female
    I am grateful for the assistance this country provides for us. With the help of the interpreters, it wasn’t a
    difficult process – Turkish 50+

Participants in the younger Turkish group discussed that those eligible should be enrolled automatically,
rather than having to enrol themselves.


5.5 Reasons for not enrolling
As with those who had enrolled, most of the participants in the unenrolled group had heard about
enrolment when they received their citizenship, although this varied. Newer arrivals had also heard about
enrolment at their citizenship course. Older arrivals did not recall hearing about enrolment or voting when
they received citizenship. The main reason given for not enrolling was wanting more information about
voting in Australia before completing and returning forms at citizenship ceremonies. Some were also not
sure about how to complete the form.
    I didn’t understand what we would be signing and getting ourselves into. I didn’t know about the voting
    process so I didn’t want to join up without knowing anything – Egyptian man
    They kept telling us to fill it in and give it to them on the night. I didn’t for two reasons; firstly I was not
    sure about filling it in correctly and the other reason I was not convinced about voting in this country and
    whether it would make a difference - Iraqi woman
Other reasons included not being asked to enrol when they received citizenship

    When I got my citizenship they were not fussy about enrolment...no one really pushed the issue. In fact I
    hardly recall them saying to enrol – Lebanese man
    Me too, I did mine during the day at immigration and I wasn’t asked to enrol either, that is why I never
    bothered. I have had some information in the mail about enrolling but I haven’t –Lebanese woman.
The group went on to speak about the barriers to enrolment for them. This is discussed further in the
section below.


5.6 Barriers to enrolment

5.6.1 Language and literacy
The primary barrier to enrolment discussed by participants was language. The not enrolled group spoke of
language as a barrier to understanding the electoral system, including literacy. They felt that while people
may have enough English to pass their citizenship test, this did not mean their language was advanced
enough for them to understand the electoral system in Australia. This was also different for older migrants
who did not have to go through the current process to become a citizen, receiving less information.
    If you come from a country with a system so different, or no system at all then it is hard to understand –
    Not enrolled
    I think it is much different now. When I went for my citizenship I don’t think they asked me any questions,
    now people have to do a course and get so much more information.. Maybe if I knew more at the time I
    might have been interested in enrolling – Not enrolled



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    At the time my English was very bad so I couldn’t fill in the form because I wasn’t sure what they wanted
    and I haven’t gone back to fill them in since – Not enrolled
When enrolled participants were asked about barriers to enrolment in their communities, language was
also the primary barrier identified. This included not understanding what the form was for, the enrolment
process and the electoral system in Australia.
    Everything is always in English anyway so even if the information came in their letterbox often they think it
    is junk mail and throw it away – Egyptian/Lebanese participant (aged 65+)
    If you don’t speak English and you don’t know what enrolling and voting is, then it is hard to explain to
    people and get them interested in enrolling – Iraqi participant (aged 18-29)
The younger Iraqi group spoke of people they knew who had unknowingly enrolled at their citizenship
ceremony without realising what the form was for, and were then fined for not voting.
    Many people I know, filled it up at their citizenship ceremony and had no idea what it was, they thought it
    was part of the ceremony, then they got a shock when they get a fine for not voting in elections. They had
    no idea they were even enrolled or that they had to vote. Too many Iraqis have complained about this –
    Iraqi participant (aged 18-29)

5.6.2 Not understanding the system
Tied in with language was discussion of not understanding the electoral system in Australia was another
significant barrier to enrolment. As mentioned above, the complexity of the electoral system in Australia
was described as being difficult to understand with limited English proficiency. This was further
exacerbated among those communities who had no previous understanding or experience of democracy
and voting in their country of origin.
    Even for people who speak English, it takes a long time to understand it all – Not enrolled
    There are many hundreds of people who have never voted in their lives and in Australia this is their first
    time and it is confusing and hard for many people – Sudanese male
Some felt information on enrolment was difficult to attain, particularly as they may not attend a citizenship
ceremony. It was also felt that there was limited knowledge that enrolment was not an automatic process.
    I didn’t know anything about enrolment. I thought it was part of citizenship and automatic –
    Egyptian/Lebanese participant (aged 65+)
The Turkish group in particular spoke about how the enrolment process itself was not the problem, but the
confusion in their community regarding the need to enrol as in Turkey they did not have to enrol to vote.
The confusion over whether or not it was compulsory to vote also prevented some from enrolling.
    Unless people tell them they need to enrol, and that usually happens at citizenship, but with me I was told
    it wasn’t compulsory to enrol – Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)

5.6.3 Political Disillusionment
Several participants in the not enrolled group spoke of political disillusionment as a reason they have not
enrolled. While this did not appear to be an initial barrier, it was a reason that some participants remained
unenrolled after they understood more about the electoral system in Australia.
    I think I would enrol if I saw a lot of potential in a political party or a candidate that would make me want
    to vote for them...It hasn’t happened as yet – Not enrolled
    For me when I see the kind of people that go for Council elections I want to scream. They are all so
    hopeless and the things they do in the Council areas are terrible – Not enrolled



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    By not enrolling I am protesting that Australia doesn’t have good political parties that work for the good of
    the people – Not enrolled
    Just look at how the government waste money...so many billions of dollars and then we have waiting lists
    at hospitals and they are closing schools... Really how can you vote for any of them? – Not enrolled
The not enrolled group also spoke of how complaints from those enrolled regarding voting day, including
queues and making the time to vote, was another reason they did not enrol.

Enrolled participants also identified that political disillusionment was a barrier to enrolment for some. One
currently enrolled participant who regretted enrolling echoed these sentiments.
    It doesn’t matter what they tell you...they still get in and do the opposite of what they said they would.
    That is why we don’t like to vote. It is all lies – Iraqi participant (aged 18-29)

5.6.4 Concern over fines
Some who were not enrolled spoke of being concerned about being fined. This included being worried that
they would be fined if they enrolled now after many years of being not enrolled, and being fined if they did
not vote in an election after they were enrolled.
    Now because I haven’t enrolled for so many years I am worried that if I do they will fine me for all those
    years I haven’t been enrolled – Not enrolled
    To tell the truth I wished I had enrolled when Steve Bracks was Premier then I could have voted for him but
    I left it too late and then... I was worried to enrol because I have been in Australia a long time and what if
    they asked me why I didn’t enrol earlier. What am I going to say? – Not enrolled
    We hear lots of negatives things about people who forget to vote and get fined. It is upsetting for them –
    Not enrolled
The younger Turkish group all agreed that being worried about getting fined if they forgot to vote meant
that some in their community chose not to enrol.

5.7 Improving the enrolment process
Below are recommendations made by participants when asked how the enrolment process could be made
easier:

5.7.1 Improve understanding of enrolment
Participants felt that greater understanding was needed in relation to why they are enrolling, what
democracy is, enrolment and voting requirements, and the Australian electoral process.
    Instead of just being handed the forms at citizenship time, people need to understand the system, why it is
    important to have their vote and their voice counted in this country. A lot of people just vote in order to
    avoid paying the fines – Sudanese male
    For many people they really don’t understand the whole electoral process. That is the problem. It is never
    explained enough even if you go to the classes. It is still too confusing – Not enrolled
Methods for increasing understanding included a national education campaign, community education
sessions and improved availability of translated information (outlined below).

5.7.2 National education campaign
Implement a national education initiative on the importance of enrolment and electoral participation in the
form of an advertising campaign. Not just at the time of an election. Utilise both mainstream and ethnic
media (including television, radio and print).



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    More advertising, not only during election, but other times too, to educate the community – Turkish 30-49

5.7.3 Community education
In order to overcome language barriers and difficulties understanding the Australian electoral system,
community education sessions were suggested. The male Sudanese group also suggested that people could
be assisted with enrolment at these sessions.
    Bilingual education sessions on the importance of enrolling to vote. Just like we are doing today, education
    in the language we understand – Turkish 50+
    For people in our community who don’t speak good English...then the leaders of the community should be
    giving this information to people in their own language and helping them to enrol – Sudanese female

5.7.4 Translated information
Provide more information in community languages that is readily accessible, e.g. at post offices etc.
Translate enrolment forms and information on enrolment.
    All the information that people are given is in English. If it was in Arabic and easy to understand with
    reasons why it is important to enrol and vote in this country I feel more people would be interested and
    would understand it better. Not everyone can understand English – Iraqi participant (aged 18-29)

5.7.5 Online enrolment
Several participants suggested the availability of online enrolment. This raised some concerns amongst
those who were not computer literate, it was therefore suggested this be an additional option, rather than
replacing the current enrolment form.
    Enrolling on line would be a good idea. There are lot of people now with Arabic translations and Arabic
    word on their computers – Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)

5.7.6 Improved process for updating enrolment information
The younger Iraqi group spoke of difficulties in keeping their enrolment details updated. Specifically, they
felt it was onerous to provide proof of citizenship and identification each time they changed address. They
suggested that it should be a more straightforward process once you have already enrolled.
    For me the hassle is when you shift house. We have shifted twice and told them and they want citizenship
    and other proof of ID...I am already enrolled why do I have to provide that again? – Iraqi participant (aged
    18-29)
    I can’t understand why, if you are already in the system, they don’t make it easier for you when you shift. I
    don’t think people are that happy to enrol that they want to fake it do they? – Iraqi participant (aged 18-
    29)

5.7.7 No penalty for delayed enrolment
In response to concerns over fines, the unenrolled group suggested that those who enrol not be penalized
for enrolling years after first becoming citizens. This lack of penalty should be publicised.
    Maybe not penalizing people who have been in Australia for a long time and haven’t enrolled – Not
    enrolled

5.7.8 Automatic enrolment
Some suggested that people be automatically put on the electoral roll, and informed that they have been.
    Maybe people should automatically be put on the roll once they become an Australian citizen and are over
    18 years old – Egyptian/Lebanese participant (aged 65+)




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5.7.9 Letters to remind people to enrol
Remind those who are not enrolled to enrol before the next election. This was suggested as being a letter
direct from the electoral commission, as well as included in correspondence from other government
departments.
    The government should send out a letter to all those who are not enrolled, to let them know that they
    have to enrol to vote by next election – Turkish 30-49
    Centrelink, Medicare, rates notice from council, Vicroads etc – letters from these departments should
    include information on enrolling to vote – Turkish 30-49




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6. Voting

6.1 Voting history
Nearly all enrolled participants, except for six younger participants, had voted in elections in Australia.
These included council, state and federal elections. While most participants had voted in all three election
types (council, state and federal), some could not remember. For those who were unsure, uncertainty was
generally around council elections, with people not remembering whether they had voted in these or not.

    I honestly don’t remember which elections I voted in. I remember once my name was not there, and once I
    had to vote by post but not sure which was which – Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)
Participants felt they were just as likely to vote in all elections, largely motivated by fines applicable to all
election types for not voting. Some also said that they were motivated to vote in all elections to exercise
their democratic right.

    Let’s face it people are killing each other around the world to have democracy and we take advantage of it
    here and many of us don’t appreciate what we have got – Egyptian/Lebanese participant (aged 65+)
    If you want me to be honest, I only vote because I don’t want to get fined – Egyptian/Lebanese participant
    (aged 65+)
None of the participants in the “not enrolled group” had ever voted (either in Australia or overseas). Only
some of the enrolled participants had voted in their country of origin. Reasons for not voting in their
country of origin included not having a democracy, voting being rigged or voting being voluntary.


6.2 Attitudes to voting

6.2.1 Reaction to an election
There was a mixed response in relation to the first thoughts participants had when they heard an election
was coming up. The most common response was thinking about who they would vote for. This sentiment
was the strongest within the Sudanese male and female groups, with the male group also talking about
needing enough time to make an informed decision.
    We need time to get prepared...Sometimes they call an election and we don’t have time to find out
    everything about the politicians and their policies so we can make informed votes – Sudanese participant
Participants from the Lebanese and Egyptian groups also raised concerns they had once they heard an
election was coming up. These were whether their name would appear on the roll, and if they would
remember to vote on the day. Other worries included if they knew where the polling booths were, and who
would take them.

    Will I remember on the day to vote – Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)
    Who is going to take me and help me vote this time – Egyptian/ Lebanese participant (aged 45-64)
    Will my name be there or lost again like last time – Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)
    I went once and my name was already crossed off and they said I must have voted before but I
    hadn’t…they wouldn’t let me vote – Egyptian/Lebanese participant (aged 65+)




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The younger Lebanese group (aged 18-44) and the younger Iraqi group (aged 18-29) were the least
engaged of the enrolled groups in relation to initial thoughts when an election was called. Comments
included complaints about the waste of time, long queues, fines and there being no good candidates to
vote for. Some negative comments were also raised in the middle aged Egyptian and Lebanese group in
relation to candidates and the effort of going to a polling booth.

    Oh God. The line, the waste of time, the fine – Iraqi participant (aged 18-29)
    They are all stupid. I will just pick up the form, get my name scratched off and throw it in the voting box. –
    Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)
Not surprisingly the not enrolled group responded negatively when they heard that there was an election
coming up. Participants were despondent with comments relating to the poor quality of the parties, money
wastage and not wanting to vote.

    They make promises and give you nothing. Why should we vote? – Not enrolled
    Another waste of money and nothing is going to be good for the country. – Not enrolled

6.2.2 Thinking about voting
Participants thought about voting when they were unhappy with the decisions or conduct of politicians and
government and/or at election time.

    Every time they do something to annoy me I think about voting and trying to get them out –
    Egyptian/Lebanese participant (aged 45-64)
    I feel we need to think about it seriously because what is currently taking place, what you see on the TV,
    what you read in the papers, the lies and the bad behaviour of many politicians, we should be thinking of
    the voting from now...making our decisions from now – Sudanese participant
    When I get upset with the government in power, I get frustrated and think about voting time to get rid of
    them – Turkish participant (aged 50+)
    No for me voting is not something I really think about, when the time comes I think about it – Sudanese
    participant
This was consistent across all the groups except the not enrolled group who said they did not think much
about elections, some said they contributed to political discussions at election time because they did not
want people to know they were not enrolled.

    Basically I think they need to go but my vote is not going to make that much difference anyway – Not
    enrolled participant

6.2.3 Attitudes to compulsory voting
There was a mixed response in relation to compulsory voting. Some felt that, while voting was important, it
should not be compulsory, with a few participants commenting that you should not be fined for not voting.
Others felt compulsory voting was required to ensure those elected were representative of the whole
constituent.

    No it should be like in America. You have a choice whether you vote or not – Lebanese participant (aged
    18-44)
    It is important to vote but you should not be obliged to do it – Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)
    If you are concerned about the country and politics then you will vote no matter what but you shouldn’t be
    forced and threatened with a fine for not voting – Egyptian/Lebanese participant (aged 65+)


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    Look at the weather today, very miserable and cold. If voting was today and not compulsory then no one
    would go out...This means we might not get the best people for the role of running our country –
    Egyptian/Lebanese participant (aged 65+)
Most participants felt that if voting was not compulsory they would still vote. Comments mostly related to
belief in the Australian voting system and taking the opportunity to participate in it. Some did not think
they would vote, mostly because they did not feel their participation made a difference.

    We are lucky to be able to vote and the voting is all above board, not funny business like many other
    countries – Egyptian/Lebanese (aged 65+)
    I know my vote will count but back home your vote often didn’t mean anything but here it is important and
    we trust them to count our vote properly – Sudanese participant
    We have a responsibility to ourselves and on what happens to the country we live in. To not vote means
    you are mute – Turkish (aged 50+)
    Countries that don’t have democracy and elections that are bloody and violent are crying to have this
    system – Turkish participant (aged 30-49)
    It makes no difference either way. They are going to ignore you and your vote is not making a difference.
    We still get bad people in government – Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)


6.3 Knowledge of voting

6.3.1 Electoral system
When asked to rate how much they knew about Australia’s electoral system, participants gave an average
rating of 4 out of 10. Participants were asked how they would describe Australia’s electoral system to
someone from their community who had just arrived to Australia. Most responses were that either the
system was difficult, or participants were unsure of what they would say. The majority of participants were
not confident in their knowledge or ability to explain the system to others. Some found the preference
system particularly confusing.

    It is confusing here. You vote for one party and your vote goes to another party, how do you explain that
    to people. I don’t understand it myself. This preferences business is totally confusing... I can’t explain that
    to myself let alone someone new in the country – Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)
    It is hard to tell other people. It is hard to understand the system myself – Iraqi participant (aged 18-29)
    You vote for someone and they give their vote to someone else. What is that all about? – Iraqi participant
    (aged 18-29)
    I wouldn’t even join in that conversation. I couldn’t do it – Not enrolled participant
For those who mentioned particular characteristics, the most common identified detail was the eligibility
criteria for enrolling to vote. Other characteristics of the electoral system identified by participants
included there being a preference system, several political parties, and three levels of government. A
couple of participants were able to go further and describe that there was an upper and lower house in
parliament, seats, a party needing a majority to form government and that it was a Westminster system.

    Before you vote you have to be a citizen and then you can enrol and once an election comes then you can
    participate – Sudanese participant
    We have 155 seats and the party with the majority can form government and the leader of that party is
    the Prime Minister, that is for Federal government – Egyptian/Lebanese participant (aged 65+)




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    Talk about the lower and upper house system, local, state and federal government voting systems –
    Turkish participant (aged 50+)
    We tell them there are two main parties, Liberal and Labor and you have to choose one. One is for working
    class and one is for rich people – Iraqi participant (aged 18-29)

Several participants said that they would describe how voting in Australia was safe and free from violence
and fear.

    I would say, you are lucky, you have a right to vote here and you should vote and have a say in your new
    country – Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)
    You can vote without being made to feel ashamed or in fear – Turkish participant (aged 50+)
    In Australian elections there is no violence – Turkish participant (aged 50+)

6.3.2 Voting process
Participants were able to describe the process when they went to vote on election day. They identified that
you needed to be enrolled, went to a polling booth, could take a “how to vote card” from party
representatives, queued, got your name marked off, received voting papers, cast your vote, and then
placed the voting forms in their respective boxes. Several participants said it was important to get their
name marked off so they did not get fined. There was discussion in one group about whether it was
necessary to show ID, with mixed experiences depending on the polling booth participants frequented.
Another group had a mixed experience in relation to voting ID cards, with five having one and three not
recalling whether they had one or not.

    First thing in the morning, we go to the polling stations. Get the voting sheet from the party I will vote for.
    Line up, if there is a line, get name ticked off and copy the voting sheet on my vote. Drop it off in the box –
    Turkish participant (aged 50+)
    Usually we go down to the school and line up, you go through a pile of people giving you papers on how to
    vote for their party...I go inside, get my name ticked off, take the paper for the party I want and then just
    copy – Sudanese participant
    Both sheets have to be filled out, we follow the how to vote sheet for both – Turkish participant (aged 30-
    49)
Nearly all participants said they copied the how to vote cards they received outside the polling booth for
the party they wanted to vote for. They felt this made the process easier, and reduced the potential for
them to make mistakes. Most participants could not remember whether they used numbers, ticks or
crosses, but reiterated that they wrote whatever was on the how to vote sheets. There were a few who
remembered numbering boxes.

    I want my vote to count so I want to make sure I have filled it in right so I always take the how to vote
    papers – Lebanese participant (aged 18-44)
    I follow the voting sheet of the party I want to vote for. I know which party it is from its logo. Drop it in the
    box. It is the simplest way of doing it. You don’t need to read or write in English – Turkish participant (aged
    50+)
    I wouldn’t know what to do if didn’t take those how to vote cards and papers – Iraqi participant (aged 18-
    29)
    How do you know what number to give each one I don’t. I just follow the papers – Egyptian/Lebanese
    participant (aged 65+)



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While the not enrolled group said they could not describe the voting process as they had never voted, they
said they knew it involved going to the primary school, standing in line, and filling in the voting papers with
numbers or crosses. They said they knew this from advertising in Arabic papers, radio and on TV.

Participants generally felt confident they could navigate the voting process, mostly due to the availability of
candidates’ how to vote cards, and family or friends to assist if needed. Most assumed that they voted
correctly as they followed the how to vote cards.

    I like to think I did it right, I followed the voting sheet – Turkish participant (aged 50+)
    It is straight forward, not hard at all. The how to vote sheet are a tool to use, I just copy what’s on there –
    Turkish participant (aged 30-49)

Some participants spoke about how they were not confident the first time they went to vote, with some
saying they were scared, or did not know what to do.
    To be honest, the first time I voted I was scared. We went in a big group to support each other. We
    thought it was a big deal. Waiting in the queue was the hardest. Once we were in and had our names
    taken, we then went by ourselves to vote but got a bit confused. We didn’t know about taking the how to
    vote from the people at the door so I remember trying to write it all in and not being sure...I don’t think I
    voted properly that first time and neither did the others. No one had told us to take those how to vote
    papers – Sudanese participant
There was a mixed response when participants were asked if they had ever handed in a blank or incorrect
vote. A minority of participants admitted to submitting a blank or informal vote, most were due to not
knowing what to do, with a few doing so purposefully in protest. Others were unsure, but suspected there
were times where they had made errors on their voting forms. A couple of participants knew that they and
made mistakes but did not know whether they could go and get a new form, so submitted their forms as is.
    One year I got confused so just waited a minute or two and took the papers to the box. I felt bad but I
    didn’t know what to do. I had made a few mistakes so just left it – Sudanese participant
    One year it was the state election and my husband couldn’t come with me...I didn’t want a fine so I went
    on my own. They gave me the papers, I went into the booth but didn’t have any idea what to do...so I just
    folded them and put them in the box – Iraqi participant (aged 30+)
    I did that at the time when Julie was bad to Kevin Rudd. I didn’t like what she did so when I went to vote I
    didn’t write anything on the paper as a protest – Sudanese participant
Instructions on how to vote were not seen to be as useful as the how to vote cards. Participants said they
either did not read or understand the instructions finding them too complicated. Only a few recalled seeing
instructions on how to vote translated in other languages. It was felt the information contained too much
jargon and was not translated appropriately, being transliteration rather than a proper translation.

    If we had to read the instructions probably none of us would be voting well, we would get very confused
    and just put the form in empty because without those how to vote sheets from the people who are the
    front we really don’t know how to do it – Iraqi participant (aged 30+)

6.3.3 Alternative ways to vote
Nearly all participants knew of postal voting due to local council elections. Participants completed their
postal votes on time, either filling it out on their own or with the assistance of someone else in the
household. The main motivation identified for completing it on time was to avoiding getting fined. A
minority could not recall postal voting.


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