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Voting early and often? Electoral fraud in Canberra

By johnboy - 30 December 2011 27

election ink

The Liberals Senator Gary Humphries is returning to the shores of the sane following yesterday’s frolic with madness and is asking some uncomfortable questions about electoral fraud in Canberra:

The last Federal election saw over 500 cases in the ACT where a person may have voted more than once, according to official Australian Electoral Commission data.

“In every one of the 506 cases in the ACT, not one was referred to the Federal Police – that to me is cause for great concern,” Senator Gary Humphries said today

“By the AEC’s own admission, a simple denial of multiple voting leads to no further follow up by the authorities.

“It is imperative that Australia’s voting system is robust and its integrity is upheld. If the net result of 29,920 cases of multiple voting is no prosecutions at all, where is the disincentive?

“We may need to consider better methods of ensuring voter identification at election time.

Now there are a few contending influences at play here.

If you have read The Education of a Young Liberal (and all Australians should) you’ll have some idea how the bright young things of both political parties stitch up their factional fiefdoms.

They gain control of the identities of marginalised citizens (usually recent migrants, but also the elderly) and add those identities to their “numbers” in sub-branch politics.

It’s no great stretch of the imagination to see those identities used at election time either.

If you know the name and address of someone unlikely to present and vote on election day then it’s not hard to imagine a “whatever it takes” operator popping down to multiple polling places and casting multiple votes.

The purple finger dye used in new democracies to mark who has already voted would do wonders here if only we were willing to admit there could be a problem.

Having said that, the Liberals have had a long running agenda of trying to make it harder to vote.

Their internal rationale is pretty cynical; they believe people with limited identity documents are more likely to vote Labor or Green.

So a lot of the high minded talk out of the Liberal Party on electoral integrity is not as noble as they’d have you believe.

As an interested neutral I’d just like to see the election ink rolled out.

[Photo by The U.S. Army CC BY 2.0

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27 Responses to
Voting early and often? Electoral fraud in Canberra
Mumbucks 12:55 am 31 Dec 11

The Traineediplomat said :

Whoops double post…oh well post early post often…

I go with the iris scan.
I gi with the iris scan.

Henry82 10:58 pm 30 Dec 11

What they should do is force people to show photo ID in order to vote, and write down the ID card number next to the name (instead of putting a cross through the name). The ink idea sounds silly to me.

The Traineediplomat 8:04 pm 30 Dec 11

Whoops double post…oh well post early post often…

The Traineediplomat 8:03 pm 30 Dec 11

Hannah: One voter, 16,472 votes — a slight anomaly…?

Blackadder: Not really, Mr. Hanna. You see, Baldrick may look like a monkey who’s been put in a suit and then strategically shaved, but he is a brillant politician. The number of votes I cast is simply a reflection of how firmly I believe in his policies.

IrishPete 5:28 pm 30 Dec 11

This is serious (mum).

When elections are decided by just a handful of votes, 30,000 nationwide, or a few hundred per electorate, is a big problem.

Obviously multiple voting has its greatest effect in a first past the post system of electorates – I got 30,001 votes and you got 30,000, so obviously I win. Repeat across the country and the group with 50.001% of the vote in each and every electorate gets all the seats, the others get none. Is that democracy? No, not by any sensible definition. So maybe we could do away with FPTP and electorates. With outsiders imported into electorates by party machines, the idea that your local member represents you and your electorate has long been a fiction.

A system of local representatives could be maintained by having national, proportionally representative, elections, and appointing MPs to represent particular electorates. Some of them will live there, and some of the won’t but will have to set up an office there and visit regularly. (Realistically, they’ll probably set up home there, just like some do now before elections).

To try to improve the current system, a simple signature against the name on the roll would be a good start – it would make it a little harder for the multiple voter to deny, so making prosecution easier. One step tighter would be for the electoral staff to ask to see something with that signature on it, not necessarily photo ID, but a bank card, credit card or medicare card would do. One step further is, of course, to present ID (some of the cards already mentioned, but also Centrelink cards etc) or further still, photo ID. Even better, a finger print or iris scan.

These changes could be funded by actually prosecuting people who don’t vote, and increasing the fine to a genuinely deterring level. I think it’s $20 at the moment, and has been for years – is that the price of democracy? Recivist non-voters receive the same fine as everyone else, which is unusual in the criminal justice system. Obviously the idea that Australia has compulsory voting is also a fiction, there just being a small fee to pay if you don’t want to vote – hardly compulsory.


s-s-a 4:57 pm 30 Dec 11

the penalties might need to be a bit tougher than they currently are though, otherwise it might not be worthwhile chasing people

What’s insignificant about a year in jail?

In addition to the penalties under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, sections 136 and 137 of the Criminal Code provide that it is an offence to give false or misleading documents or information to a Commonwealth officer in purported compliance with a Commonwealth law. The penalty for this is 12 months inprisonment.

More info from the AEC here

steveu 4:43 pm 30 Dec 11

See the doco ‘hacking democracy’ for a point of view on the US elections…(
Have a look at the demeanour of the electoral official before and after…classic.

caf 4:34 pm 30 Dec 11

The important thing to remember is that in no electorate was the multiple voting sufficient to have swayed the result.

There is an often-cited cause of much multiple voting – elderly people living in nursing homes who voted when a mobile elections team came out to their residence prior to the election, then were also taken to vote by family on election day.

Samuel Gordon-Stewar 12:50 pm 30 Dec 11

It’s not just party hacks who vote multiple times; people who want more of a say in the process for one reason or another do it too, whether they be non-party affiliated ideologues (I count myself in this category, although I have not voted more than once in any election), angered with the status quo to the point where they think they have to take action, simply pompous enough to think that their view is more important, or some other reason, or perhaps a combination of the above.

At the last ACT election, a friend nearly gave me their vote because they weren’t interested enough to vote. It was tempting, but in the end I came to the conclusion that it was better for them to simply not cast a vote (by turning up and casting an invalid vote) than to give somebody more of a say than they deserve. The interesting thing about this though is that if it had worked the other way (ie. they couldn’t be bothered voting and asked for a copy of my vote so that they could submit an identical vote) there would be no way to track it as, for all intents and purposes, we would have both voted individually.

In the last federal election I considered studying the electoral roll and presenting to polling places as various people from the electoral roll…never twice to the same polling place and never twice as the same person. This way it would be difficult to prove that I, or any of the people I presented as, would have actually voted twice. Further, to assist in avoiding attending polling places as somebody who has already voted, I would map out where the people that I intended to impersonate live and avoid impersonating somebody at their nearest couple of polling places.

The biggest danger from this plan would come from, ironically, party operatives (ie. the pamphlet pushers and their supervisors) who circulate between polling places throughout the day and might recognise me in multiple places. It would also have been imperative to avoid any location which, at the time, contained a candidate, as appearing in the background of footage of candidates in multiple locations could pose a problem.

Again, I did not go through with this, partially because it would have been the wrong thing to do, and partially because I had to work on election day and would not have had the time or energy to make it worthwhile, especially seeing as the only way to make this worthwhile is to ignore safe seats and visit marginal electorates…and our nearest marginal electorate does not have the density of population or polling places to aide in the efficiency of such an operation.

I do believe that something should be done to try and stop electoral fraud, but branding people with ink is not the answer. Any ink can be removed with enough effort. At best such a plan would just slow down those who are keen to vote more than once. It certainly does not prevent somebody malicious from fronting to a polling booth as somebody else in order to prevent that person from voting, even if they then do not remove the ink and simply pay the fine for not voting themselves.

I do believe that requiring photo ID at polling places is the way to go. I do not believe that people with less identifying documents are more likely to vote for Labor or the Greens, nor do I believe that said people lack the resources to obtain valid identifying documents. My mum, for example, does not have photo ID and, quite reminiscent of a scene from ‘Mother & Son’ doesn’t quite understand what it is, thinking that an old photo of herself counts. This is something which can be overcome through an advertising campaign, and perhaps some assistance from a close family member or friend (I could take Mum to a government shopfront at any time and help her get a Proof Of Age card if she ever wanted one, for example).

The benefit of photo ID is that it proves that you are who you say you are and that you are not somebody else (something which ink can not do). There is still the small problem of identity theft and forged documents, although it is much harder to produce such documents these days due to the protection mechanisms in modern identity documents.

At the same time, I do not believe that a live electronic database tracking who has and has not voted, and checking people against that list when they present to vote, is a viable option either as it is too open to abuse, be it by somebody running around with fake ID or by a rogue electoral worker or by a hacker.

A potential solution would be to take a photograph of a person when they show up to vote and have presented their ID. Then, later on, any recorded instances of a person voting more than once could be checked against the photographs taken at the polling places and prosecution could be based on this evidence…the penalties might need to be a bit tougher than they currently are though, otherwise it might not be worthwhile chasing people.

Multiple voting is a problem which can be minimised, but not entirely eliminated in my view. Active checks of ID on the day, while gathering enough evidence (photos) for follow-up if necessary is in my view the simplest, safest and most-effective way to minimise the problem while still erring on the side of caution so as to not accidentally prevent somebody from exercising their right to vote.

molongloid 12:37 pm 30 Dec 11

I would bet a good chunk of double votes are due to a dumb mistake at the “marking them off the roll” stage. Under that scenario there would be a corresponding number of non voters on the roll. In each case a similar sounding name or consecutive on the roll or something.

nobody 12:37 pm 30 Dec 11

I was watching the latest Charlie’s/Mission/Bond film the other day, and they used fake finger skin to perform some tricky dead, then just peeled it off and threw it away.

So to continue voting early and often, I’d need to get up earlier, apply 10 layers of fake finger skin…..

johnboy 11:41 am 30 Dec 11

Ballot papers aren’t tracked (with very good reason).

If fraud is going on (unproven at this time) I’d guess most of the multiple voters did so in good faith themselves and had little knowledge that a party operative was voting for them elsewhere.

dungfungus 11:28 am 30 Dec 11

I would like to know which were the candidates/party that received most of the illegal votes and how is it decided by the AEC which single vote is accepted when there are multiple ones. The whole system is open to abuse and it is past time that it is reviewed. Personal ID at the time of voting is not a solution as the same procedure can be used at other booths. I think the electronic system is a bit sus too as the voter cannot see his/her name being deleted from the roll; the old system of seeing one’s name being line ruled in an electoral roll has more integrity.

johnboy 11:13 am 30 Dec 11

I’m curious which side you think I’m taking?

pharmer 10:21 am 30 Dec 11

“As an interested neutral I’d just like to see the election ink rolled out”

Interested neutral – this whole article didn’t seem very neutral to me….

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