The coalition’s voter ID bill could deter people from voting, and “no evidence” has been presented on how it could prevent fraud, a parliamentary committee has warned.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights, chaired by National MP Anne Webster, issued the warning in a report on Wednesday. It called on Secretary of State Ben Morton to explain how the bill would be effective and its impact on vulnerable groups.
If the voter integrity bill were passed, Australians would be asked to show photo or non-photo identification in order to vote.
Individuals who are unable to show ID can have another registered voter vouch for them or cast a declaration vote – after specifying their date of birth and signature – as a reserve.
The controversial bill was tabled in parliament in October, raising fears that it could be pushed through ahead of the 2022 election with the support of One Nation, which has claimed credit for it, and the Center Alliance, which has supported it in principle. , but is yet to take a position on its position.
The Committee noted that the bill could restrict the right to participate in public affairs “if a person is unable to vote … or potentially if there is a lower turnout due to a perception that identification is required for to vote”.
It suggested that the bill could also restrict “the right to equality and non-discrimination”, as requiring proof of identity “could have a disproportionate impact on certain groups”, including homeless or indigenous Australians in remote communities.
The committee said “protection against voter fraud” could be a legitimate goal, but the government had not explained “why the current laws are inadequate … and why the measures address an urgent and significant concern”.
The majority of the coalition in the joint standing committee on election issues has recommended voter ID when reviewing the 2013, 2016 and 2019 elections.
But the Human Rights Committee noted that the Australian Electoral Commission had found that cases of voter fraud were “vanishingly small”.
The committee said that “no evidence has been presented as to how the measure will protect against voter fraud and therefore increase public confidence in the electoral system”.
“It is also not clear how voter identification requirements would be able to prevent people from voting multiple times in different places.”
The committee said it was “not clear whether it could actually reduce public confidence in the electoral system and deter some voters from voting because of the perception that they can not vote if they do not have sufficient identification documents”.
Although the committee praised security measures, including the vote on the declaration, it said it was “unclear” whether this option would be available to anyone if additional information such as a driver’s license or passport number was required.
The committee asked Morton to provide further information on why the bill is necessary, how it would be effective if modeling of turnout had been carried out, its impact on vulnerable groups and consideration of alternatives.
Nevertheless, the committee said it “had not yet formed a concluded position”.
Webster told the Guardian Australia that her personal position was that the bill contained adequate safeguards, and she supported it because “fraudulent conduct should be stopped”.
Labor and the Greens, which have five members on the 10-member committee, are both opposed to the bill.
University of Sydney professor Anne Twomey has warned that the bill could be challenged in court as a disproportionate measure that excludes people from voting.