How Aussies In Antarctica Cast Their Votes

It's never too cold for democracy -- but it can be too cold for a democracy sausage.

That's the lesson of Australia's Antarctic voters, who were able to have their say in the 2019 federal election despite more than five thousand kilometres of isolation.

In the winter months, Antarctic stations are left ice-bound and inaccessible, leaving the scientists and workers who live there unable to duck down to the local primary school to cast their votes.

But don't worry, a system is in order.

Mechanic Dane Eden casts his vote at Davis research station. Image: Greg Stone/ Australian Antarctic Division

Voters living in or travelling to the icy continent can register as "Antarctic electors", and their votes are transmitted from the Australian Antarctic Territory by radio-telephone or telex.

Before this, however, they wrestle with the comically long ballot paper the same as you and I do.

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"People down here in Casey will be voting with a paper ballot," Senior meteorological observer for the Bureau of Meteorology Craig Butsch said.

"They'll be placing it in a secured ballot box and the next day myself and my assistant Sam will be counting the votes and phoning them through to the AEC in Hobart."

How's the view at this polling station? Image: Greg Stone/ Australian Antarctic Divsiion

Butsch is one of two volunteer returning officers appointed by the Australian Electoral Commission to collect and count the votes cast from his station, Casey -- located just outside the Antarctic Circle.

This year, 49 Australian expeditioners were registered to vote as antarctic electors.

Expeditioners vote at Davis research station. Image: Greg Stone/ Australian Antarctic Division
Voters at Mawson research station. Image: Leon Hamilton/ Australian Antarctic Divsiion

Butsch's assistant said it was great to be able to be a part of what is happening back home on election day even though he's so far away.

"I think it's really nice to be involved in goings on back in Australia and voting's nice way of doing that. It's good to be involved," Sam Sanders said.

But frigid temperatures do stop the voters from experiencing the complete democratic experience in one quite crucial way.

"It's a little bit cold today so we won't be having a sausage sizzle," Butsch said.

"But we will be having brunch and we will get our sausages but it will be an inside brunch instead of an outside democracy sausage sizzle sausage."