As noted the other day, the High Court’s just been considering the issue of the Liberals and then the ALP disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters. And today, just two days after argument began, it made its ruling:
Before the changes, voters had just seven days after an election was called to enrol to vote. Under the new laws, the rolls shut on the day the election writs were issued.
Two young Australians who found themselves in such a position took their case to the High Court, arguing the changes to shorten enrolment cut-offs were unconstitutional.
In a majority ruling, the full bench of the High Court today declared certain parts of the act invalid. That will mean anyone who was seven days late with their enrolment will now be able to vote.
Second magnificent, uplifting, profoundly positive court decision restoring basic human rights in just two days (the other, obviously, being the Californian court overturning the anti-equality “Proposition 8”). Something of which every current member of the High Court can be very proud. It’s just a shame it’s taken four years, so many voters may have given up on their legitimate rights and it’ll be too late for them now to vote in this election.
The AEC is going to contact voters who enrolled in that week and provide them with a means of voting – if that’s you, and you don’t hear from them, follow it up.
So, in summary: Howard’s changes were unconstitutional. There was no legitimate ground for disenfranchising those voters. The integrity of the rolls was not a genuine concern. And as for the defence run by certain conservatives along the lines that “if people can’t get enrolled in time, why should they get to vote?”, the High Court retorts: the point of the electoral laws is to enable eligible voters TO VOTE. It’s not to punish the disorganised, the poor, the young, the people who move around alot.
Only a hardline partisan would think that “YOUR PERSONAL FLAWS RENDER YOU UNWORTHY TO VOTE” is a reasonable argument.
Well done, GetUp! I think it’s about time I became a member.
ELSEWHERE: For reasons that will be fairly self-evident to long-time readers of this blog, my address is suppressed on the electoral roll. This means, among other things, that the AEC sends me a ballot in the mail after an election is called. But I can also go and pre-poll vote – which is what I did on Monday. Before another pair of ballot papers arrived in the mail, later in the week.
My question: what (apart from the fact that I would never do this because I am a principled person) is stopping me, or anyone else with this separate ballot paper in the mail, taking it in to a polling station on election day and casting a second vote? There does appear to be a watermark on each ballot paper, but it’s not very obvious – is that how it’s kept secure, that if a vote was close, those ballot papers would be recounted with careful attention paid to postal vote watermarks in case they show up in the ordinary pile? Even in the Senate, where that would involve recounting the entire State’s worth of Senate ballots, well over a million of them?
I’m curious as to what I’m missing. But I’m hoping there is some way that that would be detected and stopped.
UPDATE: Wait, I think I see how that kind of fraud would be protected: the AEC workers add up the votes in each box and tally them against the number marked off on the rolls. When there’s a discrepancy, they check the votes again. And if that watermark is what separates postal ballots from the election day ballots, then they’d be found and discarded.
So, if that’s right, it is secure after all. All good.
UPDATE #2: Check out News.com.au’s coverage:
Yup, videogames can help you at work and the Oxford dictionary has some dodgy words. I’m sure they’ll give the re-enfranchisement of 100,000 Australians more than just a tiny subheading below something about Latham, when those clearly much bigger stories are resolved.