Friday 29 October 2021

Should we have to present ID in order to vote?

The question has come up again because the federal government here in Downunder is proposing that this should happen. The Opposition is, naturally, opposing such a move. They claim it is a policy more akin to President Trump than democracy.

The reality of course is that people in many countries do have to present ID in order to vote. Those countries are also considered to be democracies.

Of course the difference between most of them and this country is that they, unlike Downunder, do not have compulsory attendance at the ballot box.

It is no secret that I am opposed to compulsory attendance at the ballot box. I would still vote and I would be strongly encouraging everyone else to vote. That said I do not believe people should ever be put in a position where they feel compelled to vote. You cannot actually compel people to vote of course. You have to take the ballot papers, "mark" them, and then place them in the relevant box or boxes. How you "mark" the papers is entirely your own affair. Many people are unaware of that. Even the Electoral Commission advertises "voting is compulsory". 

But I am not opposed to the idea of having to present some form of ID in order to vote. The vast majority of Downunderites eligible to vote have some form of ID. It's how they got on the electoral rolls in the first place.  There are a very few who don't and they can make "declaration votes". The government is proposing a wide variety of forms of ID be acceptable.

So, why oppose it? People are not being asked for a mandatory ID card.  It will simply be a request for proof that you are who you say you are. 

And therein lies the problem. I am all too well aware that there are people who use the vote of other people. The electoral rolls don't always get updated in time. People die and others use their vote by going to another polling station and claiming to be that person. There are also far too many instances of people who do not have the capacity to vote being on the electoral register. A friend of mine discovered her profoundly intellectually disabled daughter had been placed on the electoral register despite not having any understanding of the process or even understanding the concept of "choice". Despite this it appeared that she had "voted". What had happened was that one of the staff working in the residence she lives in had put her on the electoral register - and then used her vote as well as her own. That's a serious offence but it was impossible to prove. Her parents had a difficult time getting her name removed. It would be by no means the only time this has happened.

There was  a well reported case some years ago of either a family or group of people who actually set out to see how many times they could vote overall. They claimed to have each voted many times. I don't know how they did it but it must have involved some precision planning to get around as many polling booths as possible. I doubt they used their own names. They wouldn't need to. They could say they were anyone at all. That alone is good reason to need to show ID.  

I submitted a paper to the current Royal Commission about the problems many people with disabilities have in voting, especially in voting the way they want to vote. Too many of the people I interviewed complained that their vote was being used by others in one way or another. Having to present voter ID would reduce some of that risk.  It's time we thought about it for that reason if no other.