Any citizen of Australia over the age of 18 must be enrolled to vote and must vote in federal elections, by-elections and referendums. It’s the law.
You might sometimes hear people talk about ‘vote fraud’ - any illegal activity committed by any person who intends to obtain an electoral outcome that does not reflect the will of most electors. In plain English: cheating!
Unfortunately, election procedures enable voters to cast ballots in every polling place in their home electorate on election day. Some people do this innocently. Perhaps some people think doing this is their right. But it isn’t a right. It’s a crime under our laws. Those who vote more than one time in an election must know that they are committing a crime. Unfortunately, every extra vote is almost always counted and included in the election result.
Unfortunately, some people use other people’s names by mistake or by intention to claim ballot papers on polling day. Has this happened to you? You may get an official letter from the federal or state electoral commission. The letter may demand an explanation from you about why you appear to have voted more than one time during the recent election. You may get a fine but the electoral commissions have to prove that it was you who voted twice.
Australia’s famous secret ballot system, invented by Henry Samuel Chapman and exported around the world, has a flaw after all: ballot papers are not traceable and so the evidence of deliberate impersonation voting is virtually impossible to obtain. Few people are ever charged and almost none are convicted. Following the 2016 federal election, the Australian election Commission revealed that not one of the 18000 people queried for voting more than once was convicted of the offense.
Unfortunately for Australians, our nation’s election laws are not being enforced effectively. A family in South Australia famously claimed to have voted 159 times in the 2010 SA state election.
‘Multiple voting’ means that a person is illegally voting more than one time in a particular election to influence the election outcome. Multiple-voting is a criminal offence in Australia but election processes allow it to happen too easily.
Illegal voting attracts a fine of up to $6600 and/or two years imprisonment.
Voters are only asked to verbally confirm their identity when they go to vote. Unlike in other countries, Australians don’t have to prove their identity when they go to vote. No proof of identity is expected. The law doesn’t require it. This means there is no effective procedural barrier to you voting in whosever name happens to be on the electoral roll at a polling place. Could a tourist visiting Australia vote in someone’s name just for the fun of it? Well, there isn’t much to stop them. Could groups of people in marginal seats organize to vote in the names of other others? Almost certainly because the checks against this behavior don’t exist.
It’s up to Australians to demand that elections be organised for honesty and fairness.