New Analysis: Solving Problem-Finding Voter Identification Laws

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New research from the Australia Institute’s Democracy & Accountability program shows that for every voter who was marked as voting more than once (with or without precision), there were more than 1,000 Australians who were eligible to vote but whose votes were not counted. The new voter identification laws risk depriving even more voters of the right to vote, in the name of managing 2,000 “tagged” votes.

The Morrison government has introduced a bill in Parliament to change the requirements for voters to show ID on polling day in order to vote normally. This is a tactic well used to deny voters the right to vote, especially young voters, Indigenous voters, and voters with no fixed address.

Main conclusions:

  • For every voter who was marked as voting more than once (with or without precision), there were over 1,000 Australians who were eligible to vote but whose votes were not counted
  • Analysis shows that 2.7 million voters did not have their votes counted in the 2019 federal election. 840,000 Australian votes were declared informal, 1.3 million Australians registered on electoral rolls n did not vote and there were 515,000 other Australians eligible to vote who were not registered.
  • In comparison, there were only 2,000 “multiple marks” in the 2019 federal election, and many of these would be clerical errors (for example, a poll worker marking the wrong row), rather as deliberate attempts at multiple voting.
  • The incidence of “multiple scoring” voting was 0.03% of the total turnout of 91.9% in the 2019 election

“Voting in Australia is not just a democratic right, but an obligation. The government should be looking for ways to remove barriers to voting, not add new ones, ”said Bill Browne, senior researcher in the Democracy and Accountability Program at the Australia Institute.

“Rather than investigating ways to emancipate the 2.7 million Australians whose votes were not counted in the last election, this government is instead exploring ways to deny thousands more.

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

“These voter identification laws are a tactic used around the world as a voter suppression weapon. The last thing Australia needs is to import this kind of division.

“The government simply cannot guarantee that every poll official in every polling station will understand these rules and apply them consistently and fairly for every voter. The American voting system is a warning, not a practical guide, and this legislation is a step in that direction.

“This government could choose to legislate on its self-proclaimed priority of a National Integrity Commission – now well overdue. Instead, this Parliament was ambushed with a drastic change in Australian electoral culture just months before an election. “

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