December 30th, 2011 at 01:40pm
I have to give plenty of credit today to Senator Gary Humphries (Liberal-ACT) for bringing up the topic of the ongoing problem of voter fraud. That is, people voting more than once through various means.
The last Federal election saw over 500 cases in the ACT where a person may have voted more than once, according to official Australian Electoral Commission data.
1458 people across Australia actually admitted to multiple voting. Of those, 19 cases were referred to the AFP for further investigation, but at the conclusion of the investigation just 3 people were issued with a formal police caution.
The figures have been obtained by Senate Opposition Leader Senator Eric Abetz, a former Special Minister of State.
The 506 potential multiple votes from the ACT add to the national total of 29,920.
“In every one of the 506 cases in the ACT, not one was referred to the Federal Police – that to me is cause for great concern,” Senator Gary Humphries said today
“By the AEC’s own admission, a simple denial of multiple voting leads to no further follow up by the authorities.
“It is imperative that Australia’s voting system is robust and its integrity is upheld. If the net result of 29,920 cases of multiple voting is no prosecutions at all, where is the disincentive?
“We may need to consider better methods of ensuring voter identification at election time.
“It’s also clear that there needs to be a much greater emphasis on pursuing alleged offenders if we are to maintain confidence in our electoral system,” Senator Humphries concluded.
(h/t The RiotACT)
It’s just a shame that this is being brought up now, at a time of year when very few people will notice, because it is a real problem and it is probably changing the outcome of elections…and when you consider just how close the last election was, it’s a very real worry.
Of particular concern to me is this line from Senator Humphries’ press release:
By the AEC’s own admission, a simple denial of multiple voting leads to no further follow up by the authorities.
In other words, if you deny that you voted more than once, the prosecution will not be pursued, mainly because there is no real proof that it was actually you who turned up to all of those polling places.
Personally I am in favour of requiring voters to produce photo ID at polling places, although this still doesn’t entirely solve the problem as it does not stop fraudulent identity documents from being used and therefore does not provide enough evidence to prove that anybody has actually committed electoral fraud. Therefore I also support the idea of requiring that people have their photo taken when they have their ID checked…while this doesn’t stop the multiple votes at the time, it does provide actual proof for a prosecution, which in turn provides a real disincentive to cast multiple votes.
I elaborated on my thoughts and reasoning in a lengthy comment over at The RiotACT which is copied in below for your convenience.
It’s not just party hacks who vote multiple times; people who want more of a say in the process for one reason or another do it too, whether they be non-party affiliated ideologues (I count myself in this category, although I have not voted more than once in any election), angered with the status quo to the point where they think they have to take action, simply pompous enough to think that their view is more important, or some other reason, or perhaps a combination of the above.
At the last ACT election, a friend nearly gave me their vote because they weren’t interested enough to vote. It was tempting, but in the end I came to the conclusion that it was better for them to simply not cast a vote (by turning up and casting an invalid vote) than to give somebody more of a say than they deserve. The interesting thing about this though is that if it had worked the other way (ie. they couldn’t be bothered voting and asked for a copy of my vote so that they could submit an identical vote) there would be no way to track it as, for all intents and purposes, we would have both voted individually.
In the last federal election I considered studying the electoral roll and presenting to polling places as various people from the electoral roll…never twice to the same polling place and never twice as the same person. This way it would be difficult to prove that I, or any of the people I presented as, would have actually voted twice. Further, to assist in avoiding attending polling places as somebody who has already voted, I would map out where the people that I intended to impersonate live and avoid impersonating somebody at their nearest couple of polling places.
The biggest danger from this plan would come from, ironically, party operatives (ie. the pamphlet pushers and their supervisors) who circulate between polling places throughout the day and might recognise me in multiple places. It would also have been imperative to avoid any location which, at the time, contained a candidate, as appearing in the background of footage of candidates in multiple locations could pose a problem.
Again, I did not go through with this, partially because it would have been the wrong thing to do, and partially because I had to work on election day and would not have had the time or energy to make it worthwhile, especially seeing as the only way to make this worthwhile is to ignore safe seats and visit marginal electorates…and our nearest marginal electorate does not have the density of population or polling places to aide in the efficiency of such an operation.
I do believe that something should be done to try and stop electoral fraud, but branding people with ink is not the answer. Any ink can be removed with enough effort. At best such a plan would just slow down those who are keen to vote more than once. It certainly does not prevent somebody malicious from fronting to a polling booth as somebody else in order to prevent that person from voting, even if they then do not remove the ink and simply pay the fine for not voting themselves.
I do believe that requiring photo ID at polling places is the way to go. I do not believe that people with less identifying documents are more likely to vote for Labor or the Greens, nor do I believe that said people lack the resources to obtain valid identifying documents. My mum, for example, does not have photo ID and, quite reminiscent of a scene from ‘Mother & Son’ doesn’t quite understand what it is, thinking that an old photo of herself counts. This is something which can be overcome through an advertising campaign, and perhaps some assistance from a close family member or friend (I could take Mum to a government shopfront at any time and help her get a Proof Of Age card if she ever wanted one, for example).
The benefit of photo ID is that it proves that you are who you say you are and that you are not somebody else (something which ink can not do). There is still the small problem of identity theft and forged documents, although it is much harder to produce such documents these days due to the protection mechanisms in modern identity documents.
At the same time, I do not believe that a live electronic database tracking who has and has not voted, and checking people against that list when they present to vote, is a viable option either as it is too open to abuse, be it by somebody running around with fake ID or by a rogue electoral worker or by a hacker.
A potential solution would be to take a photograph of a person when they show up to vote and have presented their ID. Then, later on, any recorded instances of a person voting more than once could be checked against the photographs taken at the polling places and prosecution could be based on this evidence…the penalties might need to be a bit tougher than they currently are though, otherwise it might not be worthwhile chasing people.
Multiple voting is a problem which can be minimised, but not entirely eliminated in my view. Active checks of ID on the day, while gathering enough evidence (photos) for follow-up if necessary is in my view the simplest, safest and most-effective way to minimise the problem while still erring on the side of caution so as to not accidentally prevent somebody from exercising their right to vote.