The Queensland government today passed the first voter ID laws in Australia limiting the right of Queenslanders to vote, particularly members of already marginalised and disadvantaged groups.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s director of advocacy and research, Emily Howie, said the laws will require voters to show identification to prove their identity before they can cast a vote at Queensland elections.
“The votes of tens of thousands of vulnerable people are threatened by voter ID laws. Those most at risk are elderly and young voters, people in remote rural regions, people with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the homeless,” said Ms Howie.
The Queensland government has justified the law as necessary to prevent voter fraud. However there is no evidence of any notable amount of electoral fraud in Queensland.
“There is no proven need for this law, but there is a great a risk that the law will deny Queenslanders their fundamental democratic rights. Given there’s no evidence of fraud it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the voter ID laws are politically motivated,” said Ms Howie.
Ms Howie said the Queensland law may be a taste of what’s to come for the rest of Australia as the Liberal Party has flagged its support for national laws that would require all Australian voters to present photo ID. But Ms Howie said that there is no evidence of any significant electoral fraud at the federal level that would be addressed by such laws.
“There’s a concern that Queensland’s voter ID laws are the thin end of the wedge. Requiring photo ID at federal elections would be a discriminatory, costly and ill-conceived policy to address a problem that does not exist.”
In the United States, voter ID laws have proliferated in the last decade with 34 states passing voter ID laws. A senior US judge who once defended voter ID laws now says that the laws are seen as vehicles to suppress voter turnout rather than prevent fraud and that the laws deny access to the ballot box to people who have a legitimate entitlement to vote.
“We should learn the lessons from overseas that voter ID laws suppress the vote. The trend at recent Australian elections has been a diminishing voter turn out. Instead of erecting hurdles to voting, the government should be garnering all efforts to increase participation in our democratic system,” said Ms Howie.
For further information and comments contact: Emily Howie on 0421 370 997