Marginalised communities risk being shut out of the democratic process by proposed laws requiring voters to show ID in order to cast a vote in Queensland elections.
In an open letter to Queensland’s Attorney-General, Jarrod Bleijie, community and human rights groups have urged him not to introduce the laws he wants passed in early 2014 which would result in Queensland being the only Australian state or territory to have a voter ID requirement.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie, said requirements for voters to show ID would make voting particularly difficult for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as well as people experiencing homelessness, young people, old people and people with disability.
“The laws would create unnecessary hurdles for all Queenslanders wanting to vote in elections, but they would be especially tough on particular groups. For example, evidence shows that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples still have difficulty accessing birth certificates and are less likely to have a driver’s licence,” said Ms Howie.
The Queensland Government’s own discussion paper on the topic acknowledged that there is no evidence that voter fraud is occurring at the ballot box.
“The right to vote is a fundamental democratic value and a human right. It must only be limited where absolutely necessary. The Queensland government is restricting a fundamental human right to address a problem that it acknowledges doesn’t exist,” said Ms Howie.
The letter, signed by Human Rights Law Centre, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, Caxton Legal Centre, the Australian Council for Civil Liberties and the Youth Affairs Network of Queensland suggests that as many as 40,000 Queenslanders could be prevented from voting if the law is introduced.
The voter ID requirement would make it more difficult for Queenslanders to prove their identity at the ballot box than it is for them to enrol to vote with the Australian Electoral Commission.
“Voting should be available to everyone on the electoral roll. If you’ve proven your identity sufficiently to be on the electoral roll, then you should not need to go above and beyond that in order cast your vote,” said Ms Howie.
A copy of the letter can be found here.
For further information contact: Emily Howie on 0421 370 997 or via firstname.lastname@example.org