On Eve of Federal Election, Government Looks to Disenfranchise Voters While Ignoring Long-Overdue Democracy Reforms

Key details:

  • The Morrison Government has introduced a bill to Parliament to change the requirements for voters, to show identification on polling day. This is a well-used tactic to disenfranchise voters – particularly young voters, Indigenous voters, and voters with no fixed address.
  • The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has previously described multiple voting as “by and large a very small problem”
  • Australia Institute research finds that ‘if you don’t vote, you don’t count’, which makes it imperative to ensure that everyone entitled to vote gets to do so.

“Voter ID requirements are an unnecessary barrier to voting, which will slow down the process for everyone and deter Australians who are entitled to vote,” said Bill Browne, Senior Researcher at the Australia Institute’s Democracy & Accountability Program.

“Voting in Australia is not just a democratic right, but an obligation. The Government should be looking at ways to break down barriers to voting, not adding new ones.

“There is no evidence that voter fraud is a threat to Australian election integrity. On the other hand, disengagement from the political process and the disenfranchisement of vulnerable people are major problems.

“Running federal elections is a matter for the Australian Electoral Commission. The AEC should be left to run Australia’s first nationwide COVID-safe federal election without any new and unnecessary hurdles complicating things.

“The Government simply cannot guarantee that every polling official in every polling station will understand these rules, and enforce them consistently and fairly for every voter. The US voting system is a warning story, not a how-to guide, and this legislation is a step down that path.

“With Pauline Hanson now trying to also claim credit for this legislation, it shows the danger of politicising the voting process. These voter ID laws are a tactic used around the world as a weapon of voter suppression. The last thing Australia needs is to import that kind of division.

“This Government could choose to legislate its self-described priority of a National Integrity Commission – now well overdue. Instead, this Parliament has been ambushed with a radical change to Australian voting culture just months before an election.

“If the Government was genuine about tackling fraudulent behaviour in federal elections, they could look towards legislating much-needed truth in political advertising reforms instead.”

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