400,000 is a lot of voters to disenfranchise

We had a vigorous debate last week about whether prisoners should have the right to vote, but I doubt many readers of this blog would in any way dispute that the remaining adults in the country should definitely have that right. And yet, when Howard changed the Commonwealth Electoral Act after the 2004 election so that the rolls close at 8pm on the day an election is called, that’s exactly what happened. Where in the old system Australians had seven days to update their enrolment, now they had a few hours. The upshot was that where in 2004 423,975 Australians fixed their enrolments after the election was called, in 2007 only 17,208 managed it. That’s a lot of Australians whose voice wasn’t heard.

There is a bill before the Senate tonight, the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Close of Rolls and Other Measures) Bill 2010, that will undo Howard’s undemocratic assault on the roll and restore the ability of Australians to have a reasonable chance to fix their enrolments after an election is called. It will be supported by the ALP, the Greens and Xenophon. It will be opposed by the Liberal and National parties. The deciding vote is down to a man who should certainly appreciate how important 400,000 votes are – since he only received half that number – Steve Fielding.

Please let him know how important you think restoring these rights is.

If there’s one thing we should be able to agree on in this country, it’s that Australians should have a reasonable chance to vote, and should not be prevented from doing so by arbitrary and unreasonable restrictions.

UPDATE (17/3): The vote was adjourned to Wednesday (today). If you haven’t sent a message to Fielding or your local Coalition MP, there’s still time for it to count.

UPDATE (19/3): Now it’s been adjourned off to May. Apparently NOT disenfranchising 400,000 Australians is a complicated issue for some people.

17 responses to “400,000 is a lot of voters to disenfranchise

  1. i just submitted this:

    “Dear Senator Fielding,

    I hope that tonight, as the representative of Family First, you cast your vote in favour of those from families less fortunate than yourself. Those who are unable to afford stable housing, and those people who haven’t received education to the same high standards as we wish our own children to have.

    These are the people that are disadvantaged by the Howard government’s changes to the legislation regarding the electoral roll, and I hope that you understand that deciding that 400,000 Australians are unable to vote is a blow against democracy.

    Please consider that as you cast your single vote tonight, you have the rights of these 400,000 Australians tonight in your hands.



    hopefully mr 2% takes notice.

  2. I just did my email 🙂

  3. I added a comment about optional preferential voting, esp on the senate paper. I suspect Senator Fielding, who benefitted from the above-the-line voting, will not be interested in such a reform.
    The need to number up to (say) 200 names without missing or duplicating a number is in effect, disenfranchisment. Especially to those of us with a family. Try voting below the line with an over-active six year old who really want to get on with life.
    Next senate election it will be a toss up as to whether to give Conroy or Fielding #200.

  4. Unless they had put themselves on the electoral role when they turned 18, like most people do. Its not undemocratic – compulsory voting is undemocratic.

  5. Just as well we don’t have compulsory voting eh cemil?

  6. Jeremy: What’s the latest on the vote? Any progress, or just more delay??

  7. “Just as well we don’t have compulsory voting eh cemil?”

    Try not turning up Rob – I did and copped a fine. Or is that a barb that I didn’t get?

  8. The compulsory bit is turning up to get your name ticked off. You can take the ballot home and use it for toilet paper if you want (tho I don’t think you’re sposed to.)

    So voting itself isn’t compulsory, but signing off on the roll is.

    (As some pedant point out on another thread. 😀 )

  9. I fail to see what’s “undemocratic” about compulsory voting. As the system with the highest turnout rates and the highest number of valid votes cast, it’s the MOST democratic available.

  10. I’m always amazed at how many people get away with not putting their name on the electoral role. With the technology available today it shouldn’t be happening.

  11. The vote on the bill is supposedly meant to occur today.

  12. Compulsory voting denies me the oportunity to cast the vote that I really want to. “None of the Above”
    Sure I can turn up and not write on the paper but that is still technically an offence, though proving it could be difficult.
    Optional voting requires the MP to actually consider the aspirations of his electorate, after all I voted for him to represent ME not his party.

  13. “Compulsory voting denies me the oportunity to cast the vote that I really want to. “None of the Above””

    What does that mean? What do you want to have happen? Anarchy? You seriously cannot distinguish between ANY of the candidates on offer? You’ve looked into what each suggests, and none is closer to what you’d like to have happen than another?

    Stand yourself, then.

  14. “What does that mean? What do you want to have happen? Anarchy?”

    Ha you sound almost exactly like my old man Jeremy. (He was a barrister too, amazing/scary story actually, I’ll tell you one day.)

  15. Pingback: She might not give you a week to fix up your enrolment, you know « An Onymous Lefty

  16. My father always said, “Don’t complain about politics if you’re not willing to do something about it.” Otherwise you’re just wasting your time (and ours).

    When my first-time-voting younger daughter turned 18 this year, she did receive an enrolment form from the AEC. (She didn’t know what it was or why it arrived.) I appreciated the reminder. I expect this only works for people who are still at the same address 18 years after their birth, but you never know. The AEC might be able to follow up educational or health records. Does anyone here know of someone who received the AEC voting-age reminder once they’d moved from the birth address? It would be interesting to know.

    So, deducting the number of people who don’t move house for 18 years after birth and actually follow through on the reminder, what’s the remainder? We have a very large number of people who have moved house for one reason or another in those 18 years. “Amend your electoral record” may be present on some moving-house checklists, but I doubt if it’s ubiquitous.

    So we do need adequate time for these people to update their details. Considering how long the government takes to get anything done, it is unreasonable to expect sudden action from so many people within a few hours after an election is suddenly announced.

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