The federal government is introducing new laws that will require Australians to display voter ID when voting at next the federal election. The proposal has been met with strong criticism from the opposition leader and left-leaning groups with claims of “voter-suppression.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the law was not “earth-shattering” and that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters had made similar recommendations in previous elections since 2013.
“In fact, it’s so important that countries like Canada, France, Sweden, Belgium, at least 14 states in the United States, and the United Kingdom has this year introduced voter ID laws to the House of Commons,” he told reporters on Oct. 28. “I mean, this is a standard practice that is in liberal democracies.”
He assured Australians that “not one vote will be lost” with the Declaration Vote, a type of back-up that is currently in use allowing individuals whose details cannot be found to still vote.
Currently, voters only need to turn up at the polling booth on election day (normally a Saturday) and tell the volunteers their name, which will then be marked off a register. They then receive a ballot paper with no ID needed.
The new Electoral Legislation Amendment (Voter Integrity) Bill 2021 (pdf) will require voters to produce any proof of identity document when they arrive at a polling booth including a driver’s license, Australian passport, Medicare cards, statements from the local government or a utility provider, and even credit or debit card statements.
Opposition federal leader Anthony Albanese, however, was critical of the proposal, claiming it was trying to bring the politics of former U.S. President Donald Trump to Australia.
“On the eve of an election, the Morrison-Joyce government is trying to ram through a bill to stop Australians voting,” he told Parliament on Oct. 28. “This is a desperate attempt to undermine our strong democracy and deny Australians their basic democratic rights.”
The left-leaning Australia Institute claimed that the proposal would be an “unnecessary barrier” to voting and deter individuals entitled to vote.
“There is no evidence that voter fraud is a threat to Australian election integrity. On the other hand, disengagement from the political process and the disenfranchisement of vulnerable people are major problems,” Bill Browne, senior researcher at the Institute’s Democracy and Accountability Program said in a press release.
“The U.S. voting system is a warning story, not a how-to guide, and this legislation is a step down that path.”
Ben Morton, the special minister of state, said the opposition needed to understand the bill before criticising it.
“You have to show ID to pick up a parcel at the post office. This will allow more integrity in the electoral system to make sure the right people are getting names marked off the role,” he told the Parliament.