- The Guardian
- Issue #1986
Our democracy is, yet again, under attack. This time, however, the attack is one of the most insidious attempts to undermine the voice of the people.
Last month, the Morrison government announced it would be considering enacting voter ID laws, requiring voters to show valid identification before casting a ballot at a federal election.
Many, including opposition leader Anthony Albanese, have qualified the move as “Trumpian,” with Albanese going on the record stating that “[t]his thought bubble is straight out of the Donald Trump playbook.”
The qualification is apt. Australia currently has no voter ID laws, but the issue is a sticking point with many on the right-wing, including the former US President who continues to speak out on alleged “voter fraud” at the 2020 US elections.
Highlighting the Right’s affinity for this idea, Australia’s own Racist-in-Chief, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, has taken credit for the idea. Hanson told Guardian (UK) that “I give the Liberal Party a lot of suggestions on their legislation which they then implement – it wouldn’t be happening without me.”
Proponents of voter ID laws speak for the need for “voter integrity,” with many painting the picture that federal elections have, or could be, undermined by mass voter fraud. However, the facts state otherwise.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) told a Senate estimates hearing last month that it detected just 2100 instances of multiple voting at the 2019 election or about 0.01 per cent of all ballots cast.
If the above statistic is accurate, and there is no reason to doubt it, one has to wonder: why would the Morrison government waste its time pushing for new laws that don’t even affect one per cent of the vote?
The answer to this question is simple: to disenfranchise maligned voices. Larissa Baldwin, director of Progressive activist group GetUp’s First Nations justice campaign, stated that “These punitive voter ID laws will see First Nations people turned away from voting on election day just because they don’t have the right identification documents.”
Indigenous voters aren’t the only ones to be affected by such laws – it affects those experiencing homelessness and domestic violence. Homelessness Australia chair, Jenny Smith, stated that “If you flee your home without your papers to escape violence, or have your documents stolen while sleeping on the street, you shouldn’t lose your ability to vote.”
While the ALP and Greens have spoken out, any legislation introduced has a real chance of passing both houses. With One Nation and the Coalition on board, any legislation brought to the Senate will need one vote out of the remaining crossbench Senators – Sterling Griff, Rex Patrick and Jacqui Lambie – to pass the bill.
Patrick has gone on the record stating, “[t]his is a solution looking for a problem. My priorities lie elsewhere.” While Lambie has yet to comment, Griff has stated that he is “generally supportive” of an ID requirement. It is important to note that LNP Senator Gerard Rennick has made a commitment to withhold his vote in the Senate completely until the government meets a list of demands concerning vaccination mandates and travel restrictions. If Rennick holds firm, the Coalition would need both votes.
Thus, it is not enough for us to merely convince one of the remaining crossbenchers – we must convince both. The American Civil Liberties Union has stated that over twenty-one million citizens do not have “the qualifying government-issued photo identification,” which has “disproportionately [affected] voters of colour.” Voter ID laws are voter suppression laws, and we must fight back before we lose our voice for good.