Victoria election 2022: Voters with Covid must use Melton drive-through centre

In case you hadn’t heard, the Victorian state election is on Saturday. And in other news, if you missed this too, there is another wave of Covid making its way through the state.

Now, personally, on the first news item front, I don’t mind voting. I like to have my say in who will lead the state I live in and who will have a great deal of responsibility in making decisions that will impact me and my family for the next four years.

Plus, I can feed my two children democracy sausages for lunch.

But while we are on the personal side of things, on news item number two, I also have Covid.

Somehow, I have managed to avoid it up until this point, but my husband and I have fallen victim to the spicy cough. And on top of that, casting our vote is also going to be spicy, probably more so than Covid.

Why? Well, because unless you were super-organised and could visit an early voting centre or were eligible for a postal vote (two things which I have obviously failed to do/was not eligible for) then there isn’t any easy way to cast your vote for the election.

Because unlike the federal election earlier in the year, there are no voting phone lines for Covid-positive people, and up until yesterday, there was no alternative whatsoever.

Now though, we have very “generously” (as it was propositioned) been allocated one – yes, one – drive-through voting site for the entire state.

“We know that people want to vote but may not feel comfortable entering a voting centre. We need to provide at least one option, even if it’s not a very convenient one,” acting electoral commissioner Dana Fleming said.

“In good conscience, we felt we had to offer at least one option for voters in this situation. We have an early voting centre located at a former Bunnings site in Melton West that we’ve turned into a drive-through centre.

“There simply wasn’t enough time to find and lease any other premises that were large enough to cope.”

Ah, yes not enough time – with an election known about for months and a wave growing since October …

But this one drive-through voting centre – the only way to vote if you currently have Covid in the entire state – based in Melton, on the outskirts of Melbourne, well, it may be reasonably accessible to metropolitan citizens, and even for me in my regional Victorian locality – I mean I’d only have to drive just over 100km to get there (just what you want to do while having Covid). But for those who live in other parts of the state, well you better get up early and put fuel in your car (in a Covid-safe way of course) because you could be driving more than six hours just to get there.

And then of course, with thousands of people testing positive each day, I can’t imagine the line for this one voting centre, open only Friday from 9am to 5pm and Saturday, 8am to 6pm, will be particularly short. So also, be prepared to wait a few more hours, while sick, in your car too.

Oh, and don’t forget your positive RAT test or text from the health department to confirm a positive PCR test too because without that you won’t be permitted to vote at the drive-through. According to the AEC, this is to deter any voters who “just like the idea of drive-through voting”.

While it took me a lot of restraint not to laugh at this last comment (because what fun that does sound), my remaining bit of currently quite minuscule energy supply transformed into anger.

In my own situation, casting my vote for the state election would involve me and my husband to drive (while not really fully alert) 100km either on Friday while my two children are at school (and in the hope we get back in time to pick them up), or Saturday with them in the car (and throwing out all of our social distancing) to do so. Neither option is ideal.

Or, of course, we don’t vote at this one polling centre we are permitted to vote at and while we may no longer get a fine (because we registered our Covid infection) we won’t get to have our say on who forms our state government, and that does not sit well with me.

But for others, who do want to cast their vote, as is their democratic right, who are suffering Covid more severely than my husband or I, those who are older, who cannot drive themselves to this site and/or live hours away from this site, well I guess, they just don’t deserve to vote.

I mean isn’t this essentially the message being given to us? If you didn’t vote early (which not everyone can do) or register for a postal vote in time (again, not everyone is eligible) and you contracted Covid (which no one in their right mind tries to purposefully do), well you don’t deserve your say.

Or alternatively, just contravene all government guidelines, don’t register your Covid infection and go to your local voting centre infected anyway – something I suspect many people will do.

But I guess, at least with this decision, we do get the opportunity to decide, just don’t expect that wave to slow down anytime soon.

Shona Hendley is a freelance writer.

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