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Indigenous Leaders Speak Out Against Proposed Voter ID Laws

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Indigenous Leaders Speak Out Against Proposed Voter ID Laws

Indigenous leaders say the government's proposed voter ID laws, which could see people at the next federal election forced to show identification to be able to lodge their ballot, will deter First Nations people from voting.

The laws are aimed at preventing people from committing voter fraud, however there have been loads of concerns raised about the flow-on effects of the legislation.

One potential issue highlighted by Indigenous leaders is that it might have a detrimental impact on voter numbers in the Northern Territory, and it could lead to further marginalisation of First Nations people.

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Evidence from the United States shows voter ID laws disproportionately affect people of colour, students, older people, and people with disabilities.

Furthermore, voter fraud appears to be a non-issue in Australia, with the Australian Electoral Commission finding the rate of multiple voting was 0.03 per cent and 'by and large a very small problem', that usually involves mental health issues rather than deliberate fraud.

Northern Land Council's chief executive Joe Martin-Jard said: "Voting numbers will plummet."

First Nations union organiser Wayne Kurnoth said there was no evidence of voter fraud in the NT at the legislation will 'diminish the voting rights of all Aboriginal people'.

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Senator Malarndirri McCarthy called for the bill to be withdrawn and called for the focus to turn towards encouraging Indigenous NT residents to vote.

"Our rate is very, very low," she said.

The concern is that people who may not have ID, or have poor language and literacy skills, will not be able to fill in a 'voter declaration' form and may not understand or trust the process changes.

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"The new arrangements defy common sense and most people without ID will be confused, and most will become embarrassed and walk away if they are challenged," said Donnella Mills, chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

The bill will be considered in the next sitting fortnight.

A parliamentary joint committee on human rights found the law could discriminate against homeless Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities.

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Other MPs have been outspoken against the laws, including Bob Katter who labelled them 'racist'.

"This is blatantly racist and will prevent First Australians living in the community areas from voting," Katter said.

"The AEC and ECQ need to do proper investigations when incidents of voting fraud or anomalies are raised, and they must properly man the voting booths in the Torres Strait and Cape York with objective, at a distance, outsiders."

Featured Image Credit: martin berry / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: News, Australia, Politics

Hannah Blackiston
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