We are concerned about the impact of the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Voter Integrity) Bill 2021 which was recently introduced to the Australian Parliament.
Promoted as enhancing the integrity of the election system, there is clear evidence that voter fraud is not a critical issue in Australia. The Australian Electoral Commission has described it as “vanishingly small” and it is generally held to be within an identified group that can be addressed by other means.
If this legislation passes, an individual will not be able to vote in federal elections without a prescribed, valid ID. But here at Uniting, we know there are many good reasons why someone might not have an ID. People such as those experiencing homelessness or sleeping rough, people escaping violence or experiencing coercive control from a partner, people who may have experienced a significant life trauma or event, or live remotely, or young people who have exited the State’s care and are in the process of transitioning to their adult life may not have access to this documentation, or might not have a recognised permanent address. They are therefore excluded from exercising their legitimate role in the democratic process .
The draft legislation suggests that individuals who don’t bring an ID can complete a ‘declaration vote’. This still requires a permanent address and date of birth, or someone with an ID to vouch for them. This still excludes many of the people we have identified as being at risk of exclusion.
This Bill is already causing confusion. It risks excluding Australians who have a right to have their voice heard. It is likely to restrict access to voting for people experiencing disadvantage. Uniting Vic.Tas has a long and proud history of supporting people who are experiencing vulnerability. We stand with them and all Australians who recognise that this Bill would have the unintended consequence of excluding people from our democracy.