The proposed bill requiring voters to show ID before voting, explained.

Person putting envelope to a box

A Bill was introduced yesterday by the Government to require voters to show identification prior to receiving a ballot paper during elections. Until now, identification has not been required when casting a ballot. 

The Government says the proposed law would improve public confidence about the integrity of voting practices and reduce the risk of voter impersonation. The Bill says no voter without ID would be denied a vote if their identity can be attested to by another enrolled person who does have ID. If that option is not available, the person could cast a declaration vote. 

What is the background? 

In 2019, a joint standing committee made a recommendation for voters to require identification. Labor members of the committee dissented on the recommendation, arguing there is “no justification” and that it may discourage people from voting. 

The Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers told a Senate committee in March that the issue of voters casting multiple ballots at elections is “vanishingly small”.

Let’s look at the casting multiple ballots issues a bit more 

According to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), in the 2019 election, the rate of multiple voting sat at 0.03 percent, with the issue as “by and large a very small problem”. The AEC also suggested when multiple voting occurs, it’s often not an issue of deliberate fraud, but rather a situation around mental health. 

The Government argues otherwise, with Liberal Senator James McGrath suggesting “electoral matters must not only be fair, open and transparent, they must be seen to be so”. 

The criticisms 

Labor Senator Don Farrell criticised yesterday’s proposed law, saying it would “disenfranchise vulnerable Australians by preventing them from exercising their democratic right to vote”. Farrell added: “People living in remote Indigenous communities, those dealing with homelessness, and Australians escaping domestic violence often don’t have the easy access to identification many take for granted.”

The U.S. discourse

The topic of voter ID laws is widely spoken about in the U.S – there are both federal and state laws around voting. Some states are stricter than others. This year, a new law was introduced in the state of Georgia, where ID requirements are now required for mail-in ballots that previously only required a signature. This drew heavy criticism from Democrats who argued that the law change was the result of the election of two Democratic Senators from Georgia to the U.S. Senate. Georgia has reliably been a Republican state prior to the 2020 U.S. President election, so having not one, but both Senators being Democrats was a huge defeat for Republicans.

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