Thursday, December 2, 2021

Why voter ID requirements may exclude the most vulnerable citizens, especially First Nations people

On Tuesday 26 October, Guardian Australia revealed that the Morrison government intended to make further changes to Australian federal electoral law.

These proposed changes include requiring registered voters to show ID before casting their vote at a polling station on Election Day.

The proposed changes state that appropriate forms of ID would include:

  • Driver license
  • Passport
  • medical card
  • electricity bill
  • debit or credit card
  • A nomination paper from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).
  • A document from a land council or similar agency.

If a voter is unable to present an identity card on Election Day, a fellow voter (who has his or her identity) has the option of verifying it for them. Potential voters can also sign a declaration for their ID, which is then linked to their ballot.

If the bill becomes law, it would potentially deprive vulnerable sections of society who do not have access to the required ID documents, especially First Nations people.

Read more: Voter ID is a bad idea. why over here

Why have these changes been proposed?

The Morrison government has stated that these measures are necessary to ensure that federal elections are not at risk of electoral fraud. It also ensures that potential voters are not excluded from casting their vote in federal elections. Liberal Senator James McGrath recently confirmed this position on RN Breakfast.

In previous Australian elections, voters were not required to show ID on election day. This is because electoral fraud has rarely been an issue in Australian elections. In fact, the Australian Electoral Commission estimated that the multiple voting rate in the 2019 federal election was 0.03%.

This proposed change of Morrison government has faced criticism and outrage from Labor, the Greens and others. They argue that not only is multiple voting not a problem that needs to be solved, this proposed change is hurting the electoral system.

The people who will suffer the most from this proposed bill are Australia’s most vulnerable voters. These include people living in financial poverty, people living in remote communities with minimal access to support services, and the homeless. Indigenous peoples occupy each of those vulnerable positions in society at alarming rates.

More evictions for vulnerable people

Such constraints are part of the history of the undemocratic approach to how Australian elections should be conducted. Women and Aboriginal peoples of Australia were excluded from providing input during the drafting of the Australian Constitution. The only people involved in that process were non-indigenous male representatives from every colony except Queensland.

In addition, women and Aboriginal people were given the right to vote in federal elections much later than white men. Women were given the right to vote in 1902, tribal people in 1962. However, with indigenous peoples, there are still ongoing issues with high and disproportionate incarceration rates and low literacy and numeracy rates. Those issues are yet to be resolved in Australia and Indigenous marginalizations make a significant contribution.

It seems as though the Morrison government’s position on voter ID requirements does not consider the problems facing indigenous peoples and how to combat them. For example, research from the AEC in 2016 shows that approximately 58% of Indigenous peoples (both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) were enrolled to vote. However, this was seen as a generous estimate of Indigenous voter engagement – ​​a more realistic enrollment figure is around 50%.

Furthermore, a private assessment conducted by Indigenous leaders, non-governmental and government agencies found that approximately 25–30% of Indigenous people actually cast a formal vote. I suggest that these figures are indicative of the wider systemic challenges facing Indigenous political participation in Australia.

Senator Patrick Dodgson recently said:

The government is well aware that First Nations peoples have struggled to obtain identity documents as original as birth certificates, due to the absence of records or difficulties in accessing and navigating official services – Difficulties that are often exacerbated by remoteness and language and communication loss.

Indigenous peoples and communities must rely on the limited resources of the AEC, which coordinates educational outreach programs to engage and assist Indigenous voters. However, previous funding for these initiatives has been limited.

The indigenous enrollment rate of 79.3% still lags behind the enrollment rate for all eligible voters of 96.3%. Those figures do not include Indigenous voter turnout rates, Indigenous votes cast and the rate at which those votes actually count as formal votes.

Indigenous locals participate in an Australian EC pilot program at Galliwinku on Elcho Island (2018).
Gregory Roberts/You Image

What do these proposed changes mean for other vulnerable voters?

The Morrison government’s proposed voter ID changes add extra red tape to the voting process. It does not provide incentives for those who are already persecuted to participate in voting. Instead, such electoral changes can create a less fair and less transparent democracy.

Australian citizens should have as few barriers as possible to casting their vote.

Internationally, the position of the government conflicts with internationally recognized standards of universal suffrage. In general terms, it should be limited only if there are sufficient reasons to justify the limitation of privileges of adult citizens.

Read more: From eviction to genocide, the U-Rook Justice Commission sets new standards for telling the truth

Voting should be easier than this

The Morrison government’s position on electoral fraud is not a significant reason to exclude Australia’s most vulnerable people from voting in elections.

Instead, given the evidence of Indigenous and other vulnerable people being denied suffrage and as recommended by the Australian Human Rights Commission to submit to a Senate inquiry in September, the voter ID requirement bill should be blocked.

The proposed electoral voter ID requirements are precisely why indigenous peoples need to have a constitutionally protected voice in parliament, as the means of representation within it are so limited.

The government must adopt a new strategy for electoral reform that is committed to empowering and engaging indigenous people and other vulnerable voters of society.

A new strategy will require new ways to ensure that Australia’s most vulnerable, marginalized and unrepresented people have a seat at the table in federal electoral decision-making processes. Most importantly, it should include the people who are the first people of this land.

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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