Flat White

Electoral fraud: why no action?

24 October 2016

4:57 PM

24 October 2016

4:57 PM

Scrutineers Start Counting Postal Votes As Australia Waits On Election OutcomeWhen Donald Trump says the election is rigged he is probably referring to two issues. The first is that the mainstream media is campaigning, in their news reporting, for Hillary Clinton to be elected. This would appear to be the case.

He is probably also referring to the fact that there is considerable amount of fraud in American elections.  According to a Pew Charitable Trust report in 2012, roughly 18 million voter registrations are either “significantly inaccurate” or invalid, including over two million dead and 2.75 registered in more than one state.  The Heritage Foundation has also revealed over 400 random examples of voter fraud. This includes multiple voting, voter impersonation, fraudulent registration, registration and more than one state, registration by non-citizens, voting for the dead etc. These findings are usually dismissed by the Democrats, who indicate strong opposition to identification requirements on the ground that this disadvantages the poor and those from minorities. It is difficult to see how this is so, given that identification is required in other activities, for example, for driving cars, accessing welfare etc.

It is not that we Australians can look at this with any sense of superiority. The Australian Electoral Commission has revealed that over 18,000 people are being asked why they voted more than once in the recent election. The Commission did not reveal which electorates are involved. This is of particular concern in those electorates where the candidate won by a handful of votes, in one case as low as 37. Moreover the government enjoys a majority of only one seat.

The AEC has also revealed that while there were just under 7000 cases of suspected voting fraud in the 2013 federal election, not one conviction was recorded for electoral fraud.

As I have mentioned previously in a piece in the Spectator Australia, the ”reforms” introduced by the Hawke government to make it easier to vote, also made it easier to vote more than once.  The crucial change was the abolition of the requirement that a voter should vote in a polling station in an electoral subdivision. In addition, no identification is required, such as the identification which is necessary to collect or send certain parcels at the Australian Post Office.

One solution to this gap in security is that the AEC send voters a bar-coded card which could be read when voters’ names are ruled off.

What is truly remarkable is that there is no provision for the person’s name to be ruled off on an electronic roll. This would block any second or further voting anywhere in Australia or indeed the world.

In addition, and as far as possible, the nation should vote on one day by everybody presenting themselves at a polling station on the day of the election. The increasing amount of pre-polling only encourages more fraud, with people voting before they have heard and seen the full campaign.

The requirement of identification should limit another well-known fraud. It is claimed that when Joe Riordan lost the Sydney seat of Philip, Gough Whitlam observed: “Comrade, comrade, how negligent of you. To lose a seat in which there is not one but three cemeteries is unforgivable.”

The Howard government, against the strong opposition of the Labor Party, pushed through legislation to counter probably the greatest source of electoral fraud in Australia. This legislation closed the rolls on the same day that an election is called. Before that there was about a week between the calling of the election and the closing of the rolls. In that week, the electoral commission was inundated with a tsunami of enrolments. Enrolling is extraordinarily simple and easy to fabricate. The AEC just didn’t (and still doesn’t) have the resources to check these before an election. The constitutionality of the Howard law was challenged by GetUp!, with the High Court urgently hearing two plaintiffs who were both in breach of the electoral law. One had not enrolled and the other had not informed the AEC of a change of address.  This was despite the fact that it was common knowledge that an election was imminent.

The High Court gave its decision before the election, but without revealing how the judges had voted and without giving their reasons. These were released about four months later, just before Christmas, when nobody noticed. They found the Howard legislation unconstitutional, an extraordinary decision because the constitution clearly gives this power to the Parliament. It was a narrow decision, 4:3.

As a result of the High Court decision, GetUp! said 100,000 additional names went on to the roll, with many of these in marginal seats. GetUp! claimed its action had ensured that the Gillard government survived, albeit as a minority government. The election was very close and it is clear that had the High Court ruled the legislation was valid, as it obviously was, Tony Abbott would have won the 2010 election.

Electoral fraud remains rife in Australia. Given the indifference to this, the dismissal that it actually takes place and the strong opposition to any reform, it is reasonable to assume that some political parties regard electoral fraud as a useful campaign tool. How curious it is that the revelation that there were more than 18,000 instances of multiple voting in the recent election did not in any way caused much interest or comment in the Parliament. Surely this requires urgent action to counter such mischief.



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