Need to ensure equal participation by people with disabilities in Australia’s democracy

A push to ensure that people with disabilities fully enjoy the right to vote has been welcomed by the Human Rights Law Centre.

The Australian Law Reform Commission released a report this week recommending that Commonwealth laws be amended to remove discriminatory provisions that prevent people of ‘unsound mind’ from voting.

The HRLC’s Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie, said that people with disabilities should be supported to exercise their right to vote on an equal basis with others.

“A healthy democracy requires participation in voting from as broad a range of voters as possible. We should be providing the necessary support to ensure everyone has an opportunity to have their say by casting their vote,” said Ms Howie.

The Law Reform Commission’s report Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws, was tabled in Parliament on Monday and Ms Howie said the removal of archaic language from the Electoral Act is overdue.

“The law is written in vague, derogatory and stigmatising language that does not reflect the true capacity of people with disabilities to make decisions about voting,” said Ms Howie.

The Law Reform Commission has recommended that people who lack decision-making ability relating to voting should be exempt from compulsory voting.

“By keeping people on the electoral roll, the government would strike the right balance between giving people with disabilities the opportunity to vote and relieving the burden on those for whom voting is not within their capacity,” said Ms Howie

Under international human rights law, Australia cannot limit a person’s right to vote because of their disability or decision-making ability. Many European countries, including the United Kingdom, have removed restrictions on voting that are based on mental incapacity.

The Law Reform Commission has recommended that all states and territories should consider repealing comparable provisions in their electoral law.

HRLC’s submission to the Commission's inquiry can be found here.


For further information contact: Emily Howie on 0421 370 997or via