More than 40,000 marginalised people in Queensland, particularly Indigenous people, the disabled and elderly, could be shut out of the democratic process due to the state’s planned “onerous” voter ID laws, community groups have warned. In a an open letter to Queensland attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie, the groups warn that the proposal “unnecessarily restricts Queenslanders’ voting rights” and could disenfranchise those who do not have the required identification documents. The Queensland government plans to introduce the law – which applies only to state polls – before the 2015 state election, meaning Queensland would become the first state or territory in Australia to require that voters show identification at the polling booth.
The government has said that ID will not have to include a photo. But community groups are concerned that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, who do not have access to documents such as birth certificates, and the elderly and infirm, who would have problems making a return trip to the polling booth should they forget their ID, will be penalised.
The groups, which include the Human Rights Law Centre, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service and Youth Affairs Network of Queensland, said the laws would be an “expensive policy response to a problem that does not exist”.
“There is very little evidence of voter fraud, so this would be a complete waste of money,” Emily Howie, of the Human Rights Legal Centre, told Guardian Australia.