opinion

Louise Pratt: Proposed new voter ID laws are a solution to a problem which doesn’t exist

Louise PrattBroome Advertiser
Louise Pratt
Camera IconLouise Pratt Credit: Picture:

The Morrison Government’s proposed voter ID laws, set to be debated in the Federal Parliament this week, are ripped right out of the Donald Trump playbook.

These proposed laws would require voters to show ID before casting their vote at a polling booth. If ID is not provided, voters will be required to place their completed ballot in an envelope and write their name, address, and date of birth on the outside.

At the last Federal Election in 2019, there were only 19 instances of double voting. Analysis from the University of New South Wales has shown us that those 19 cases were likely to be people with dementia who had forgotten that they had already voted.

Widespread voter fraud does not exist in Australia. Voter ID laws are a solution looking for a problem.

To say otherwise is to deliberately mislead the public and tell the Australian people a lie for political gain.

And that is exactly what the Morrison Government has done by attempting to push these proposed laws through.

Let’s just stop for a minute and call these proposed laws what they really are: a racist and discriminatory dog whistle designed to further disenfranchise communities most left behind by the Morrison Government.

As Labor’s shadow multicultural affairs minister Andrew Giles has said, while there is no evidence of voter fraud in Australia, there is plenty of evidence of right-wing voices wanting to restrict the franchise of First Nations people and multicultural communities.

First Nations communities in Western Australia are already disenfranchised.

The electorate of Durack here in WA, and the seat of Lingiari in the NT have the highest number of unenrolled voters in the country — and the highest number of people living in remote First Nations communities.

Many of these communities are larger than country towns, but they don’t get their fair share of resources to get people on the roll.

Even more perniciously, I know from political experience that Liberal politicians have spent years writing to voters in WA’s remote communities to get them kicked off the roll by asking the Australian Electoral Commission to strike off voters that to sender mail.

Only after lobbying from Labor did the AEC stop responding to returned mail, recognising that people in remote communities frequently have to return mail when they know people are off in other communities, working or schooling away.

I also can’t see how these new rules will work in practice.

Early voting takes place in remote communities around the State in the weeks leading up to election day.

Polling officials fly-in for a couple of hours before they are off to the next location.

Voters whose only option is to vote at a remote booth do not have weeks of pre-polling and an entire Saturday like most metropolitan voters. These proposed laws will mean that lines at already overburdened remote booths will become longer and some voters simply won’t have a chance to cast their vote.

Put plainly, Australians who have a right to participate in our democracy will doubtless be denied that right by the introduction of these laws.

This is a recipe for disaster on election day.

In September, constitutional law expert Professor Anne Twomey told the Senate in a submission to an inquiry relating to a similar voter ID Bill proposed by One Nation, voter ID requirements place an additional procedural burden that can create confusion and generate voter suppression.

We’ve seen this before. In the United States, voter ID legislation is typically used by right-wing Republican politicians to discourage black and Latino communities from voting.

What makes all of this even worse is that Scott Morrison and the Liberals have decided to focus on disenfranchising voters instead of shining a light on their history of scandal and rorting the public purse. The Morrison Government continually refuses to implement a national anti-corruption body with teeth.

It has time to push through shonky laws designed to make it harder for people to vote, but no time to put in place the kinds of democratic transparency legislation that our country so desperately needs.

West Australians have had enough of the lies and racist dog whistles. And we’ve had enough of this untrustworthy Morrison Government.

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