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.