SUBJECTS: Electoral reform, AEC, voter identification, Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
PRESENTER: A parliamentary inquiry wants voter ID to be introduced to stop people from casting multiple ballots at elections. It’s one of 24 suggestions the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has released in the wake of the 2013 federal election. Tony Smith is a Victorian Liberal MP and he’s Chairperson of the Committee and he joins us on the line now. Hi Tony.
TONY SMITH: How are you?
PRESENTER: Well, thank you. What actually would providing ID solve? Would that mean that if I were to provide ID at say, where I go and vote, and I then go to another area to vote, does it show then that I’ve already voted at both places?
SMITH: Well there’s two kinds of multiple voting. There’s someone voting more than once in someone else’s name, or as you said, someone casting more than one vote in their own name. If you’ve got an ID requirement it makes it very hard for someone to impersonate someone else—that’s voting in someone else’s name—and if you’re voting more than once in your own name it makes it much easier to track those people down. At the moment they can simply say ‘look it was someone else’, or ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’. At least with an ID requirement, that person is having to provide ID and it raises the hurdle which is why most countries have an ID requirement. We are one of the few that doesn’t.
PRESENTER: So Tony, why don’t we? Why hasn’t it happened before now?
SMITH: It’s interesting. There’s been a lot of opposition to it from the Labor party over many years. The argument has been that it would deter people from turning up to vote or it might disenfranchise people from voting. That’s not the case because we’ve got a compulsory voting system and it’s a very simple requirement. For people who forget ID on the day, they’re still able to cast what is called a declaration vote and the details can be tracked down later…
PRESENTER: Tony – appearing at your local polling booth on election day, and seeing the queues of all outside, and now realising that you’re going to have to show ID as well, which is going to take even longer, surely to goodness in this age we should be able to vote online. Is online voting one of the suggestions that you are looking at?
SMITH: Let me deal with the first part of your question, because you raise an important point on polling day. In the Queensland state election we had the first ever voter ID requirement at an election and it went extremely well so we’ve now had the test case, which is one of the reasons we have recommended it. There were no problems and there were no complaints, and everything moved as well as you could possibly hope for. We had a look earlier last year at electronic voting—we were asked to look at that—and we produced a report on that towards the end of last year. The report found, having looked at all the evidence; whilst it’s very attractive and naturally it’s something most people would want to do because it would be convenient, it’s costly and above all very risky.
PRESENTER: But when you say risky, there’s billions of dollars that changes hands every second of the day in world of finance. If they can go away and control it, surely to goodness we can go away and control our online voting?
SMITH: Well, there’s only one country in the world that does it—that’s Estonia—and every expert says it’s hackable. And not only that, it would change the nature of voting in a way that not a lot of people have contemplated. Not only do you have a right to vote, you’ve got a right to a secret vote. And once you move away from the isolation of the polling booth, you’re moving into a different realm. But we took the evidence, we spoke to international experts and all of the evidence was ‘don’t do it’. Now interestingly, in NSW in the state election they have a form of electronic voting for some people, and they had big problems with it.
PRESENTER: Alright Tony, we appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today.
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