A proposal to make voters show identification at polling booths has been condemned as disenfranchising some Australians.
A 228-page report by federal parliament’s joint standing committee on electoral matters made 27 recommendations, including voters for the first time being required to show identification at polling booths.
And when they vote for House of Representatives members they should be given the option not to cast preferences, rather than compulsorily number all the boxes to have their vote counted.
The Human Rights Law Centre said the proposals would weaken the fairness and equality of Australian elections.
“Introducing voter ID laws … would create a further barrier to voting by Australia’s most disenfranchised populations, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” the centre said on Friday.
“Ending compulsory preferential voting [would] potentially lead to millions of voters not having a say in who gets elected to parliament.”
The report said the type of acceptable ID should be broad enough so as not to actively prevent people from voting and should include such things as a Medicare card, drivers licence, senior’s card or a power bill.
Exceptions could be made for itinerant and remote Indigenous voters, and in the case of someone being unable to provide ID, they could lodge a ‘declaration’ vote, the committee said.
The law change would help deal with the problem of people casting more than one ballot.
The Australian Electoral Commission estimates the level of apparent multiple voting at 0.03 per cent.
The Greens and Labor said in dissenting reports there was no evidence to suggest voter fraud was a significant issue that required the risk of disenfranchising voters.
It would also be an unnecessary administrative burden for the AEC.
“Requiring identification merely complicates the voting process and is a clear attempt by the Liberals at suppressing the vote,” Labor’s report said.
Labor senators also said the recommendation for optional preferential voting was “a clear attack on compulsory voting at a time when we need it the most”.