Though many thought the new electronically assisted voting system used in Victoria’s recent elections would assist those that are unable to make it to the polling stations to vote. It has also highlighted some very unwelcome procedures within the Australian voting system that could very well be discriminating against the elderly and infirm throughout the state.
The Right To Stop a Vote
Under Victorian State Law, anyone who is eligible to vote in a state election also has the right to contest the mental ability of any other voter and block their constitutional right to participate.
Placed under the ‘Unsound Mind’ banner, if an Australian voter feels that someone close to them does not have the mental capacity to understand the implications of voting, they can simply request that the person in question be removed from the electoral role. And in Victoria, this right seems to have been exercised with vigor.
Since the previous state election 4 years ago, more than 7,000 potential voters have been removed from the electoral role, with what some people feel is a far higher bias against those over the age of retirement or living in care home facilities.
At present, within the Victorian Electoral Commission, there is no formal description of what makes someone ‘unsound’ for voting. A friend or family member need only complete the relevant form and obtain the signature of a medical practitioner to contest to remove such a right.
And though this practice was put in to place to protect vulnerable adults from the stress of fines or penalty notices for not voting, it could well be the case that such a clause is actually discriminating against a lifestyle sector that have a different view on how the state, and indeed the country, should be run.
A Call For Change
This week the Australian Law Reform Commission has recommended that the ‘unsound mind’ clause be removed from the Commonwealth Electoral Act, taking away the ability for another voter to be able to block an individual’s right to vote. And with this action also comes a call for state legislation and local governments to follow suit, reinstating the opportunity for everyone to exercise their constitutional rights.
To date, Victoria Electoral Commission state that there has been no such ‘bulk blocking’ biased against either the elderly or disabled in Victoria. But many claim that simply removing such a barrier would be the best way to prove it.