26 November 2021

Electoral fraud is a non-issue so why does the Coalition want voter ID laws?

| Ian Bushnell
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Ballot boxes

Australia enjoys a remarkably trouble-free electoral system. Photo: File.

Of all the legislation that the Morrison Government has decided to prioritise, its voter identity bill is arguably the least worthy.

In a country with compulsory voting, where elections, as opposed to the campaigns, are marked by an almost ritualistic and civil turnout in which fraud, in the Commonwealth Electoral Commission’s own words, is “vanishingly small”, this proposal is surely a solution looking for a problem.

Under the bill, Australians would be asked to show photo or non-photo identification in order to vote, while those unable to show ID can get another registered voter to vouch for them or cast a declaration vote – after providing their date of birth and signature.

The fear is that the poor, the homeless and Indigenous people in remote areas would be affected and that it could actually deter people from voting, putting them in conflict with the law.

I have voted in booths in villages, country towns, big-city suburbs, and in the national capital for the past 26 years, and the experience has been the same all over – simple, swiftly efficient and private.

Most people take all parties’ how-to-vote material, mainly not to give away their preferences or out of the sheer politeness that generally pervades.

Inside, your name is ruled off the electoral roll, you find a booth and minutes later your duty is done.

READ ALSO New Chief Justice puts ACT’s high Indigenous incarceration rate on priority list

Australia has nurtured an engaged electoral culture where the notion of voting “early and often” is unfathomable, even if it were possible under our system of independently run elections.

We have close contests and recounts, but in the end, the result is never questioned and fraud has never been a factor in the outcome.

So, where does the Morrison Government find the need to tamper with a system that is working perfectly well?

It’s not something new. The Coalition majority on the joint standing committee on electoral matters has recommended voter ID in reviews of the 2013, 2016 and 2019 elections.

For those with long memories, Coalition politicians have also argued for voluntary voting, before the idea died a natural death due to Australians being quite happy with the current system.

But we only have to look to a country where voting is voluntary, voter ID is an issue, elections are an exercise in getting the vote out and run by whichever party is in power at a state level.

The United States has a history of using voter ID to suppress the vote and disenfranchise certain sectors of the population.

The Republican Party, from which some Coalition operatives seem keen to import strategies, is currently driving to make voting harder and more restrictive as part of its plans to take back Congress and the Presidency.

While Coalition advocates say the bill would have safeguards and is not aimed at disenfranchising anybody, the result would add another layer to the voting process, easily intimidate people who do not carry ID and create an unnecessary point of conflict at polling stations.

It would also invite the intervention of scrutineers attempting to cancel votes and could lead to counting delays.

In short, it would create more problems than it would solve. But it could affect Labor’s traditional constituency, and therefore improve the Coalition’s position. It could also set the stage for a resurrection of the voluntary voting argument as it introduces a contradiction into the compulsory voting culture.

The parliament’s human rights committee found that the government had not been able to explain the pressing need for the bill and had not presented any evidence of how the measure would prevent voter fraud and increase public confidence in the electoral system.

Of course, the bill could also be a sop to the more right-wing elements of the Coalition and the Parliament and a distraction from more serious matters, such as establishing a federal anti-corruption body.

Whatever the case, voter ID is an unnecessary and unwelcome proposal. If it ain’t broke …

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Capital Retro7:49 pm 29 Nov 21

But Biden and his squeaky clean supporters got more votes than Trump and his “extreme right wing mates” Jose so, what are you actually ranting about?

Vote early, vote often. Will voter ID solve this?

Capital Retro4:48 pm 27 Nov 21

It may not stop it on voting day but at least the Electoral Office will have recourse against the offender and take action against that person, at the same time withdrawing all the invalid votes.

In some countries an stamp with indelible ink is applied to the back of a voters hand. Can’t see that happening here though.

Can’t see how it would. You could still turn up, show ID, get ticked off and vote at every booth in your electorate.

Capital Retro1:50 pm 28 Nov 21

That’s pretty much what I said but in auditing after polling day the anomalies would be detected and the person could be detected and charged. That can’t happen now because there is no ID required.

The AEC is independent and audits after every election. There is absolutely no evidence that there has been any significant (as in enough to change the result of an election) ever found in Australia. No people complaining they couldn’t vote because someone had already voted in their name, double voting, excess votes in an electorate…
My question to you is where is the evidence that the law needs to be changed? Where is the evidence of a need for an extra layer of bureaucracy and expense for our elections?

Stephen Saunders6:50 am 27 Nov 21

Chewy’s is a fake binary. There’s an obvious and demonstrated need for vaccine ID, but not for voter ID. The Electoral Commissioner himself said that there were 1500 irregularities in the last election, which is a vanishingly small percentage.

On Chewy’s logic, one might as well require ID to enter a school, movie theatre, tram or a public toilet, one in all in.

I laugh at the pretzel like twists you need to make to oppose this.

Apparently we need ID for almost every facet of our lives. Except for how we choose our governments.

Also, pretty sure you need ID in the form of a ticket to enter a tram or movie theatre as well as currently not being able to enter schools without ID because of Covid.

Thanks for agreeing with me.

Stephen, as it turns out, School ID cards are a thing, if you work in a school you’ll need a Working with Vulnerable People’s Card (which also identifies you), at the movies you could be asked for proof of a Concession entitlement, same applies on a tram or any public transport. Identification and proof of entitlement are everywhere.
I agree that there doesn’t appear to be any identification requirements to defecate, although John Barilaro thought that a Canberrian had used facilities on the South Coast.

If election fraud is a non-issue then why be against it, unless there is support for election fraud. It’s better to close the loophole for election fraud as it would be unpleasant to have an election like the most recent United States election which would have been the most fraught, conflicting and untrustworthy US election in living memory.

It should be up to other groups and organisations, or even the electoral commissions to help underprivileged persons to enroll.

The most recent United States election wasn’t at all “the most fraught, conflicting and untrustworthy US election in living memory.” It was a very reliable and proven result. Just because the person you wanted to win didn’t get over the line doesn’t make the result”untrustworthy”.

Happy to show my ID to vote. There are so many situations in life requiring proof of identification that I can’t understand why there would be objections.

The negative argument is about the remote and underprivileged communities. During their lives, haven’t these people ever need to be identified?

Rather than opposing for the sake of opposing, shouldn’t the Opposition and the Senate look to support and where appropriate amend/improve legislation?

HiddenDragon6:58 pm 26 Nov 21

So an honour system is absolutely OK for deciding who will govern the country, but absolutely not OK for doing your weekly grocery shop –


One is an obvious and proven threat to the public while one is proven to be not a threat to the public.

Why tie the two and using that to justify pushing for something that is clearly unnecessary and only causes friction?

Also to flip the argument, if showing ID is such a non-issue, why is showing proof of vaccination such a hard thing and resist against it?

ChrisinTurner6:56 pm 26 Nov 21

Why is ScoMo still following Trump’s ideas? He lost.

Brendan Vernon5:18 pm 26 Nov 21

There are provisions in the legislation for folks who dont have ID. Most folks I deal with on the outer fringes of society have a medicare card or centrelink information and some even have a licence. You need ID to open a bank account, obtain a mobile phone etc. The level of fraud is hard to detect but recent elections have been close so why risk any issues for something that 99% of the electorate readily has. Opponents say the Electoral office hasnt convicted anyone – this is being disingenuous as if someone has voted for you 8 times how are you going to prove it was you that did it and not someone else

It shouldn’t be a requirement, this is RIGHT-WING crap!!!!

Capital Retro6:04 pm 26 Nov 21

Producing photo ID at polling booths would prevent voting in the name of another person, including a dead or fictitious person.

“Cemetery voting” was carried out by one of the two major parties in Queensland about 25 years ago.

Also, voting more than once (vote early and vote often) would be eliminated, as would
casting a vote that the person knows he or she is not entitled to cast and procuring the vote of another person, knowing that the person is not entitled to vote would all be eliminated if photo ID was mandatory.

Capital Retro8:37 pm 26 Nov 21

Bloody Hell TimboinOZ, you are a lefty!

You had me fooled.

Cemetery voting doesn’t occur. The electoral rolls are cross checked with each state and territory registrar of births, deaths and marriages on a routine basis.
There is no evidence that there are people voting more than once in any significant number.

Helen Roberts4:43 pm 26 Nov 21

I do not want the unnecessary “voter identity bill rushed through. Because it is following the bad example of the Republicans in the USA and intended to suppress the vote of poorer people.

Helen Roberts – How does it suppress the vote of poorer people?

Capital Retro8:40 am 27 Nov 21

It was more about stopping the Democrats exploiting the poorer people.

That’s incredibly condescending.

Just let them have their little culture war win

Them? It that the pronoun “they” want to be identified by 😉

I’d go along with this PROVIDED the legislation also outlaws electioneering fraud, lies and porkies. That would well and truly stuff up the liar-in-chief.

Bible-inerrancy Christians just are delusional.

This explains Scomo – et al – well enough for me.

I’ve read the Bible – more than once – and am – still – a typically calm, liberal High Church Anglican.

Jenny Graves2:33 pm 26 Nov 21

To be honest, I have no problem with the idea of showing ID. But I’ve never understood why we cast our votes in pencil. It would be so easy to rub out the ticks and change them. Why on earth don’t we use a ballpoint pen at the ballot box? Does anyone know?

Jenny, when the polling places close, the AEC staff are joined by numerous scrutineers from the various political parties who just stand back and watch the entire count, it would be impossible for anyone to tamper with any vote without been noticed by several people who would speak up promptly and loudly.

From the AEC –
“The provision of pencils in polling booths is a requirement of section 206 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. There is, however nothing to prevent an elector from marking his or her ballot paper with a pen if they so wish.
The AEC has found from experience that pencils are the most reliable implements for marking ballot papers. Pencils are practical because they don’t run out and the polling staff check and sharpen pencils as necessary throughout election day. Pencils can be stored between elections and they work better in tropical areas.”

Tempestas said “Increasing the scope of evidence to cast a vote can only result in disenfranchising some voters which is the intent.”

How on earth does showing identification at a polling booth disenfranchise voters?

there are lots of ways that could happen.

I’ve been a scrutineer.

If you have never had to carry id to vote, and you go to vote and are told you need id, you may not vote. If you are one of the many people who have good reason to be afraid of bureaucracy (reasonably or not) you won’t go to the polling place.
You already need to prove you are eligible to vote to get on to the electoral roll. That is where id is relevant.
Just because it won’t disenfranchise you does not mean it cannot disenfranchise someone else

You need ID to receive government benefits so even the poorest person should have the most basic of identification.

And I’m guessing that the “many” people who have a good reason to be afraid of bureaucracy would number less than 10.

That is the weakest argument I’ve ever seen.

If you were too scared to show ID, you’d also already be too scared to attend a polling place.

This disenfranchises no one, it’s a myth you’re trying to concoct to oppose a reasonable step in ensuring the robustness of our electoral process.

There has been repeated research into this and NOT everyone has an ID that would be acceptable. Where is your evidence it doesn’t?

No. Voter fraud absolutely IS an ISSUE, Herr Gobbels….oops, sorry….Gobbels heir, obviously YOU have missed the FACT that ARIZONA HAS determined FRAUD in the presidential election. Over 55 SENATORS have put forth DEMANDS for ACCOUNTABILITY. It is NOT a problem for anyone in Australia to obtain identification documents. Suggestions that ABORIGINAL people are NOT able to get ID? Bull…I rather think that ABORIGINAL people might be getting TIRED of jerks like this assumptions that aboriginal people are too incompetent to obtain identification documents…Get over it. Stop trying to use aboriginal people to promote your personal agenda. Australian people all over Australia ARE easily able to obtain and use id materials. Are you trying to promote the New World Order??? Don’t. We won’t.

I agree. Anti-voter ID sentiment ironically and inadvertently discriminates against minorities and ethnic groups.

Capital Retro9:56 am 27 Nov 21

And who do the minorities and ethnic groups traditionally vote for? If you said Labor you are right.

Which political party is opposing this proposed legislation?

I take it that the 55 senators are part of the nutjobs still claiming that the election was stolen from Trump ?

Well THE original POSTER of this thread has certainly CONVINcEd me. Randomly capitalising WORDS is a sure sign OF a rationaL argument.

Both Chewy14 & Nobody have proved Ian’s point. There is minimal concern with the current electoral process & this measure seeks to increase doubt in its current effectiveness.
Our electoral system has several distinct processes, enrolling,
attending a polling place, casting a vote, and scruitineered counting. Only the first two are compulsory. Evidence of address etc is required for enrolling the first time so requiring it again to attend a polling place is a classic mid-direction.
The “but we require it to do … “ argument is a case of false equivalence. We don’t have people racing around casting multiple votes in the same name & nor do we have any widespread evidence of people trying to vote for other people.
Marking your name off on the roll is proof of ID for the purpose of voting. The scope matches the needs. Increasing the scope of evidence to cast a vote can only result in disenfranchising some voters which is the intent.
The far right here are just importing a play from the US republicans who need to keep ordinary people out of the US electoral system so they have a chance of governing. Any measure borrowed from them is about making life easier for those who believe they are boring to rule.

Tempestas, these aren’t the conspiracies you’re looking for.

You’ve addressed none of my points and this proposal clearly increases trust in our system which is inherently a good thing.

“We don’t have people racing around casting multiple votes in the same name & nor do we have any widespread evidence of people trying to vote for other people.”

Except there’s also no evidence that this doesn’t happen as I’ve said. I know of many anecdotal instances of friends and family voting for other people, even though I personally don’t think there’s a big issue.

But that begs the question, what is so onerous about showing ID that almost everyone in Australia already has?

If anyone is importing anything from the USA, it’s the opposition to this proposal when our systems are completely different.

1) They are against this because it is unnecessary, implies the current system is less robust than it is.
2) requiring id – so what, the scope (why it is provided) should match the need. “You require id in all these places, why not at vending machines and when you purchase groceries. It is irrelevant.
3) Needing vaccine cert in a cafe is about health risk, you conflate these different things. Maybe you should provide DNA and references to buy alcohol – again irrelevant.
4) “knowing” is based on the evidence by the current independent keepers of the system. Sure they could do better with better funding but that is not what is being proposed.
5) The act of ‘improving’ robustness is a red-herring, it is being suggested to create doubt in the existing system. It creates new ways to disenfranchise some voters and that decreases faith in the fairness of the entire system.
Again our electoral system has several parts, adding a new requirement to the showing up at a polling place adds incredibly little.
If the process to enrol increased the id requirements that might have the best chance of increasing robustness.
This measure is about a belief in the minds of some who think the “wrong” people vote and they should be excluded. See who the loudest supporters are, and you know why they want it.
Also no evidence that something doesn’t occur, + anecdotal = nice yarn for journalists but is a long way from fact.

1.Clearly it can be made more robust through the provision of ID requirents that we have to produce in numerous other areas of life. Why on earth would people think voting is less important than going to their grocery store.

2. Most people use cards to pay for groceries or vending machines so they already do produce ID. They also have to currently check in, doing the same.

3. And this is about a fraud risk, Thanks for making my point.

4. And yet there is no evidence provided, the only data mentioned against fraud is that they do small checks against people voting twice. Not that people aren’t voting for others for which there is zero evidence either way, which is entirely my point.

5. No, it literally is nothing more than an improvement and it disenfranchise no one.

Also, massively ironic for you to complain about having no evidence whist stating that the proposal will disenfranchise people for which you have provided zero evidence.

If more than one person with the same name living at the same address is marked off as having voted you have an instance of voter fraud.

ChrisinTurner6:57 pm 26 Nov 21

But this doesn’t happen. Not broken!

It’s not practical to go through all the polling booth lists to verify that. It’s better to verify with ID.

Capital Retro8:45 am 27 Nov 21

Since computers have been used in polling booths in the ACT, electors no longer see their name/address being ruled out on the printed electoral roll and electors are not allowed to see the computer screen to verify that their name has been ruled out.

This is not acceptable.

I honestly don’t know why anyone would be against this.

We require identification in nearly all areas of our life but somehow, some people think that being able to show some ID when we vote is too difficult?

Apparently having to have a vaccine passport to enter a cafe is perfectly reasonable but proving who I am for voting purposes us outrageous.

And I also find the claims around “knowing” voter fraud is vanishingly small as spurious because without being able to identify who is voting, there can be no real evidence either way.

This move only enhances the robustness and public faith of our electoral system. It’s a good move that costs little.

“I honestly don’t know why anyone would be against this.”

Because it adds *nothing* positive to the electoral process.

The only argument those in favour of it have been able to bring to the table is “but…fraud!” I think they need something a bit better than that.

Except as I said, it 100% adds trust to the robustness of our electoral process and costs very little.

So why would anyone be against it?

There is nothing onerous around showing ID and the claims of attempted voter suppression have absolutely zero evidence to support them.

So I think the opposition to the proposal need something better than their currently weak arguments.

What trust does it add to a process that consistently reports virtually zero fraud?

See, that’s your whole argument all over again. “But…fraud!”. You still can’t articulate exactly what problem this is supposed to address. I suggest you go off and try and find some actual evidence of a problem that needs this to fix it. (Hint: you won’t find any)

“What trust does it add to a process that consistently reports virtually zero fraud?”

Did you even read the comment you’re replying to first?

“And I also find the claims around “knowing” voter fraud is vanishingly small as spurious because without being able to identify who is voting, there can be no real evidence either way”

Both actual and perceived confidence in the system are important. This proposal adds to both and costs very little.

Try again to find an actual reason to oppose it, currently you’ve provided nothing.

Actually there are reasons to oppose it. There are plenty of people who don’t have an ID that would be considered valid under this legislation.
There is NO evidence of any significant fraud in the system. Never has been in Australia.
It would add to the expense of the election and increase the time it takes to vote because of the added layer of required bureaucracy.
It’s been investigated repeatedly by the AEC and found to be unnecessary and that it would disenfranchise groups within the community.
Give us a reason why we need to do it?

“There are plenty of people who don’t have an ID that would be considered valid under this legislation.”

No there isn’t. For someone talking about providing evidence, this point is completely made up.

“There is NO evidence of any significant fraud in the system”

As above, no evidence that there isn’t either. ID would fix the risk.

“It’s been investigated repeatedly by the AEC and found to be unnecessary and that it would disenfranchise groups within the community.”

No it hasn’t been investigated at all and it disenfranchise no one.

Capital Retro7:13 am 29 Nov 21

Fraud = Good
Significant fraud = Bad

Capital Retro – Huh?
Thanks for the stunning and enlightening contribution.

Capital Retro12:05 pm 29 Nov 21

It appears you approve of any fraud too. How things have changed.

Oh relax Ian, this a long overdue improvement, a stitch in time …

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