Voters at the next federal election would have to show identification to cast their ballot under proposed laws the government will put to Parliament.
The controversial legislation, expected to be introduced on Thursday, would address a perennial issue for the Coalition and is intended to prevent people from voting multiple times or under false identities.
Voters without ID would have to cast declaration ballots or be vouched for by someone else under proposed laws.Credit:Chris Hopkins
The changes were approved in the Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday.
They would allow a very broad definition of identification documents, ranging from driver’s licenses and Medicare cards to letters from government agencies, power bills or bank statements.
Someone with no identification could be vouched for by another person who was able to show who they were, and still be allowed to cast a vote. And no one would be prevented from voting at all, with people who had no way of identifying themselves being allowed to cast a “declaration vote” where enrolment details are checked by polling officials after the fact.
This is in line with a recommendation made by the joint standing committee on electoral matters in its report on the 2019 election.
Committee chair James McGrath, a Liberal senator for Queensland, wrote in the report the “sanctity of the electoral roll and the importance of each citizen equally exercising equally one vote” were vital to making sure elections were fair, open and transparent and seen as such.
But Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers told a Senate committee in March the AEC was satisfied with existing measures to prevent multiple voting and described the problem as “vanishingly small”.
The commission sent letters to about 2000 apparent multiple voters after the 2019 election. Mr Rogers said the majority were older people, those who had English as a second language or people who were confused about the act of voting.
Special Minister of State Ben Morton declined to comment on the legislation ahead of its introduction.
If the new laws are to be in effect at the next federal election, they would have to pass Parliament fairly speedily, with the poll due to be held by May. There are only two sitting weeks remaining this year.
They will face fierce opposition from Labor with shadow special minister of state Don Farrell labelling them “unnecessary and burdensome”.
“The government’s plans would not only see a return to long queues at polling booths, but also disenfranchise vulnerable Australians by preventing them from exercising their democratic right to vote,” he said.
Greens deputy leader Larissa Waters said voter ID laws were “a solution in search of a problem”.
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