Correctional services in Australia’s most populous states barred Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) staff from entering prisons to conduct voting in successive federal elections, new documents show. Potentially thousands of prisoners were prevented from voting in the 2010, 2013 and 2016 elections due to a failure to enrol them and register their ballots. The revelations come in the form of hundreds of AEC documents, including internal memos, emails and records, obtained by the ABC under freedom of information legislation. The documents show the AEC went to great lengths to ensure prisoners were correctly enrolled and equipped to vote, but the efforts had little effect.
In one obtained memo, the head of Queensland Corrective Services told the AEC it would no longer allow mobile voting booths in prisons because they were “resource-consuming” and posed a danger to the personal safety of electoral officials. “[Providing a mobile ballot booth inside prisons] has been identified as a risk to the security and good order of centres,” the 2007 memo reads.
Brett Collins from Justice Action, a group that advocates for the rights of prisoners, said prison managers are often wary of outsiders interfering in the day-to-day running of prisons. “Corrective services would just prefer that prisoners were left in their cells and didn’t have to have a legal entitlement to be engaged in the voting process, I think that’s really underlying it,” Mr Collins said. “There are so many ways that corrective services in all states and territories make it difficult for people.