The Morrison government is pushing for legislation to make voter ID mandatory at polling places. Contrary to some critics, what it proposes would not create US-style “voter suppression”. But it’s still an unnecessary thought at an inappropriate time.
Countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom (so far at least) do not require voters to show ID in order to vote. Many other systems do.
Insecurity is a stereotypical trope about security. So it is natural for political conservatives, by nature, to favor Voter ID, arguing that it is an “integrity” measure. Social democrats, on the other hand, are more trusting and concerned with ensuring that everyone can and does vote.
The Australian offer lists a range of documents as acceptable IDs. Photo ID such as driving license is not mandatory; A credit card or utility bill will suffice. The “documents” in the law now include electronic records, which is important for how many people receive paper utility bills.
If someone does not bring voter ID, or it is rejected (say for a misspelled name), they are offered a “provisional” vote. It is a rigmarole incorporating additional forms and delays. But it is a buffer – imagine a remote voter has forgotten his wallet after driving for an hour to a polling station.
Young people, the very elderly, and indigenous peoples are less likely to have such IDs. To address the latter, a document from an Indigenous Lands Council or similar agency would also count. When the LNP in Queensland briefly introduced voter ID in 2013–15, it was clear that remote voters were more likely to have problems with ID.
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Cost in times of COVID
The UK Cabinet Office estimates that the cost of voter IDs will be in the order of £20 million (A$36.7 million) per election. That is for mandatory photo ID. Direct costs in Australia would be low, if not insignificant. The Australian Electoral Commission must mail proof of enrollment to each voter as a form of ID.
There are indirect costs as well. The most obvious is in training – and trying to ensure continuity among – thousands of casual election workers. Inevitably, some forms of ID will be accepted at some polling places, others will not. Think broken bills on mobile screens or cards with a slight difference in name on the voter list.
Most of all, with Australia reopening, COVID will spread to states that have never had a real wave. Voter ID will increase the processing time for lakhs of voters. Those whose IDs have been rejected will have to join separate queues to cast a furious “declaration” vote.
In the end, they enter a black box of declaration votes. Unlike some US states, voters are not told whether their provisional vote was ever accepted into the count. This in itself will hinder, not increase, trust.
One group of voters will not be required to present ID: Postal Voters. Asking postal voters to scan or copy (mainly older) IDs is a step too far, as they already sign and view the form to vote.
What does the constitution say?
Voting on “rights”, next to nothing. But in 2007, the High Court implied a universal suffrage for Australian citizens. Then, in 2010, it hit out at the early closure of the electoral roll as an undue burden on the ability to vote.
While doing so, it said that Parliament cannot impose such a burden without proof. The “evidence” to support voter ID is the intuition that voters must produce ID. It is said that the benefit of voter ID card is to increase the perception of integrity.
This may in essence be a fair call. Yet in reality, Australia has a high degree of confidence in our free and complete electoral processes. Any lack of trust leads to discussions around the parties as hierarchical institutions, their funding and accountability, and not the electoral administration.
Risk perceptions can also be circular if not manipulated. By risking integrity, regardless of anecdotal evidence, you may create concerns that you use to justify new rules. (We also see this in debates about election donations.)
As long as the law allows voters without ID to vote in the manifesto without excessive enthusiasm, the High Court will not veto voter ID. Under no circumstances can the law be challenged before it comes into force. Any plaintiff claiming to have been affected before the election would be reprimanded with a “go and organize ID”.
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Voter ID cut in compulsory voting
Above all, voter IDs have been a dreary idea in a country that has required people to enroll to vote for 110 years and turn out to vote since 1924.
Why we need Voter ID is not clear. Most European countries do. But they have national identity cards. That is, every citizen equally has official ID. Such id is something the liberals fought against in Australia.
Ultimately, electoral integrity comes from having the widest roll and the highest possible turnout. Australia has a good record here thanks to compulsion and direct enrollment laws.
In the absence of evidence of rogue voters posing as other voters, voter IDs are an unnecessary bureaucratic requirement, at an inappropriate point in a pandemic.
This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.