By Callen Sorensen Karklis
Recently it occurred to me that I needed to update my enrolment details to vote, as I’ve just recently moved for study purposes close to my university. The recent Super Saturday by-elections throughout the country reminded me of the need to vote come next year’s upcoming federal election. As many of you may or may not be aware, Australia has compulsive voting meaning that if you’re enrolled and you don’t vote you risk a small fine.
Now most people who don’t vote either pay the fine and move on, but what if you wanted to vote and still couldn’t vote in your area because the AEC wouldn’t allow you to update your details? Many of you would be saying; “How does that make sense?” Well simply put, this is an everyday problem that some do find quite common, especially if your circumstances prevent you from being able to update your enrolment details.
When you update your enrolment you have to provide a copy of your driver’s license, but in other cases if you can’t provide a license you have to organise somebody who is on the electoral roll to step in for you to confirm your identity, much like a little kid getting their mum or dad to give them permission to go on a school excursion. This is despite the fact even if you have a form of ID like an adult proof of age card. Now some of us can get somebody we know to confirm our identity but what if you have a disability, or are homeless, or not exactly the social type? Or you work long shifts and don’t have the time to do this? Well these are situations what many people go through and a lot of the time it means less people rolling out to vote. Which brings me to my next question: is it time to change how we register to vote?
Queensland: a History of Voter Fraud
Queensland, under the reign of the Newman, brought about the rule for voters to bring their ID to vote much like it is in many states in the US, which has been brought forward by many Republicans. But QLD has had a long history of voter fraud and manipulation dating back to the 1940s.
It was in 1949 when the long-term Labor government of the era changed the voting system from a one person, one vote, one value system to one where the number of voters in each electorate according to their size and proximity from the state’s capital in Brisbane. At the time this gave an enormous advantage to the ALP which used to draw a great deal of strength from its rural voting blocs. But this didn’t last as the ALP fell apart and splintered nationwide during the 1950s cold war splits which cost Labor government in QLD in 1957.
The Country Party came to power however, and took these electoral changes to a whole new level under the guise of a gerrymandering system under Premier Frank Nicklin, but it was really his successor “Sir” Joh that took who took the gerrymander to the next level Regardless of the population of each electorate it was made so that rural seats had as much weight as metropolitan areas which greatly benefited the National party this kept Labor in the wilderness for 32 years.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Joh even changed the name of the Country Party to the National Party to diminish the Liberal Party’s metropolitan base which some argued cost the National power in the end, split the Coalition in QLD and even cost John Howard the chance of government in the 1980s against the then Federal Hawke Labor Government.
Things were further complicated by the Fitzgerald Inquires and vast array of police and political corruption found to be systemic in the QLD political structure in the late 1980s. It became evident that a change was needed to not only reform the political structure but how voting occurred in QLD as well. It wasn’t until the successful election of Wayne Goss that a fairer voting system was introduced were a comprise was met which allocated at least 40 seats in the parliament of 89 to Brisbane where a good portion of the state’s population was at the time.
Further reform needed?
After mostly 21 years of mostly Labor rule from the late 1980s to 2012, Campbell Newman commanded the first Liberal National majority since the Nationals held power in the 1980s. Reforms were quickly introduced for voters to prove identification to vote in future elections much like the Republicans do in the US. This did not last as Labor returned to power and relaxed such hard-line restrictions as it was harder for people to turn out to vote and enrol in 2015s QLD state election. That said, certain restrictions do still remain where people with 18 Plus Cards who may not drive must ensure somebody else on the electoral roll can prove their enrolment details in a paternal manner. Perhaps it’s time to reform this by allowing people with ID to prove their enrolments themselves.
To enrol to vote contact the AEC.
Or contact your local MP if you think it’s unfair that people with ID who may not drive still need somebody else to confirm their enrolment, please find attached their contacts via the QLD Parliament website.
Callen is an active member of the Australian Fabians Society and is a Quandamooka Noonucle Indigenous person with a strong commitment to community. Callen has been in the ALP, worked in the retail, media, and market research sectors and is currently a student at Griffith University and works in IT. He also has a Diploma of Business.
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