On 21 November 2013 Queensland’s Attorney-General, Jarrod Bleijie, introduced the Electoral Reform Amendment Bill into Queensland’s parliament. Among other things, the bill contains provisions to give effect to Queensland’s new policy in which voters in Queensland elections must show identification in order to be able to vote.
The Queensland Government has said that a broad range of ID will be accepted as proof of identity: a range of photographic and non-photographic ID as well as a letter sent to all enrolled voters by the Queensland Electoral Commission when an election is called. If a voter cannot provide ID but they claim to be on the roll and haven’t already voted, then the bill provides for them to submit a “declaration vote” similar to how people vote when out of their electorate on polling day.
The HRLC and a range of other organisations had previously raised concerns that the ID requirements would unnecessarily create barriers to voting for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as well as people experiencing homelessness, young people, old people and people with disability. [link to Em oped] Whilst the declaration voting process and the acceptance of a broad range of ID are to be welcomed, the bill still raises human rights questions. The bill imposes a further hurdle for voters in Queensland elections, impacting to some extent on the right to vote. There are strong arguments that the law is unnecessary because there is no evidence of the voter fraud which the government asserts the bill was created to address. With rising rates of informal votes and diminishing participation in elections, arguably resources ought to be spent encouraging participation in elections rather than setting up more hurdles. There is also a concern that the guidelines on acceptable forms of ID will be in regulations and therefore subject to change by the executive.
The Bill has been referred to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee to report by 24 February 2014. Submissions can be made to the Committee by Friday 17 January 2014.