The Australian government yesterday proposed laws requiring voters to prove their identity when casting a ballot, a move slammed by the opposition as an attempt at voter suppression and to mimic US policies.
Ahead of upcoming national elections due by May next year, the government introduced the “voter integrity” bill to the Australian House of Representatives, saying it would prevent potential fraud and multiple voting.
The legislation would require voters to show a proof of identity document — such as a photo ID, birth certificate, credit card or bank statement — at polling booths on election day.
Voting is compulsory for Australians aged 18 or older. Voters provide their name and address to a polling station worker before casting their ballot.
Australian lawmaker Anthony Albanese, who is leader of the opposition Labour Party, said the government was trying to “channel the US far right” by attempting to introduce voter suppression measures.
“This is a desperate attempt to undermine our strong democracy and deny Australians their basic democratic rights,” he told parliament.
The government “is trying to bring the politics and tactics of [former US president Donald] Trump’s America into Australian democracy.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended the draft legislation, saying it was a “standard practice that is in liberal democracies” around the world.
“It’s not an Earth-shattering proposal that when you go to the vote that you should be able to say you are who you are and provide some form of identification to support that, that’s an important protection for our democracy,” he told reporters in Canberra.
The Australian Electoral Commission, the independent body that oversees elections, says that voter fraud is a “vanishingly small” issue in the country.
There were no prosecutions for multiple voting arising from the last election, the opposition said.
Voter ID laws are common across Western democracies, but efforts to introduce them in the US have sparked controversy, with opponents arguing that they discriminate against voters from minority backgrounds by requiring the purchase of a proof of identity.
Under the proposed laws, voters who cannot produce an ID would still be allowed to cast a “declaration vote,” which involves signing a detailed document asserting their claim to vote in an electorate.
However, critics say that form is complex and could present difficulties for people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
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