Ballot box reform too late

VOTING and enrolling in the recent Federal election was easier than enrolling in under-seven’s football. With no identification checks at any stage in the electoral process, one wonders how secure and accurate the results are.

Legislation designed to overcome some of these shortfalls was lost in the haste to hold an election. The beginnings of reform were contained in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bills of 1987 and (No 1) & (No2) 2001, which already had passed through the Senate, and would partially tighten up Australia’s appalling lack of security over such a fundamental process.

Australian Electoral Office (AEO) information officer Lynette Chester advised that the Bills were awaiting proclamation by the Governor General.

Most other developed countries, including France and South Africa, have a number of safeguards that could have been included in this proposed legislation.

The French have to apply for an Elector’s Card, which is like an ID card or a passport. It has to be produced when voting and the roll must be signed at the time of voting.

Enrolment under the proposed legislation requires a similar standard of identification, as when applying for a passport. Birth certification, name changes and proof of address with a declaration witnessed by an “appropriate” person are some of the critical features.

“It has been recognised for some time that reform was needed in this area. That’s why the Bill was drafted. It is unfortunate that it was not finalised prior to this election.” Ms Chester said.

Significantly, however, the reforms contain no provision for validating existing enrolments or checking identification of voters at polling booths. Any person, armed with a list of names and addresses, could vote multiple times at multiple booths, without fear of being challenged or caught.

The only issue that presently curtails en masse multiple voting is matching the gender of the enrolled person and the long odds of an official recognising the imposter giving a false name and address.

Officials from local ballot boxes have reported the odd mistake in crossing names off, but only later cross-checking would reveal if someone had multiple votes.

While it is an offence to cast multiple votes, it would be difficult to prosecute someone whose name had been used by an imposter.

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