The Queensland Government should scrap plans to introduce voter ID laws that could unnecessarily prevent an unknown number of Queenslanders from voting, the Human Rights Law Centre has told a parliamentary committee.
The Queensland Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee is currently considering the voter ID laws as part of its review of the Electoral Reform Amendment Bill 2013. The law would require all Queenslanders to show identification when they vote.
If the Bill is passed, Queensland will be the first Australian state or territory to introduce a voter ID requirement.
HRLC Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie, said that whilst combatting electoral fraud is a worthy objective, the Queensland Government had failed to provide any evidence that electoral fraud is actually a problem in Queensland.
“The right to vote is a fundamental aspect of our healthy Australian democracy. Of course the state should protect the secrecy, security and validity of the electoral system, but in this case there is simply no evidence that limiting people’s right to vote is justified. The Queensland government is trying to address a problem that does not exist,” said Ms Howie.
Participation in Australian elections is diminishing. The AEC reports that 20% of eligible voters did not cast a ballot in the 2010 federal election and that 25% of young voters (400,000 people aged 18 to 24) failed to enrol in time to vote in the 2013 election.
“The voter ID requirements will impose a further barrier to voting at a time when participation in elections is declining. Reform in this area should aim to make voting easier and overcome difficulties some members of the community might face in voting, such as illiteracy, language barriers or freedom of movement,” said Ms Howie.
Of particular concern is the disproportionate impact that voter ID laws could have on already marginalized communities.
“Whilst the HRLC welcomes the attempts by the government to mitigate some of the harsher aspects of voter ID laws overseas, there is still a real risk that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people experiencing homelessness and people who speak English as a second language will be disenfranchised by these laws,” said Ms Howie.
HRLC’s submission can be found here: Voter ID laws: an unnecessary risk to Queenslanders’ right to vote
For further information contact:
Emily Howie on 0421 370 997or via firstname.lastname@example.org