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Proposed voter ID laws to disproportionately impact First Nations peoples

Rachael Knowles -

Voters will be required to show identification at the next federal election under new legislation proposed by the Morrison Government.

The legislation would combat voter fraud, including voting under false identities and stopping individuals voting multiple times.

Voters would be required to summit forms of identification ranging from driver's licenses, passports, Medicare cards, government letters, power bills and bank statements. Those without adequate identification can be confirmed by another individual who can confirm their identity.

Those who do not have adequate identification can cast a 'declaration vote' which sees their details are confirmed later by polling officials.

Whilst introducing voter ID laws, the Morrison Government also announced an additional $9.4million of funding to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) for a range of Indigenous Electoral Participation initiatives.

"This is important work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and for Australia's democratic process," said Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.

Despite said investment, the proposed laws have attracted strong opposition from Labor.

Senator Don Farrell accused the Morrison Government of "undermining Australia's strong democracy".

"Unnecessary and burdensome voter identification laws will make it harder for Australians to cast their vote at the next election."

Senator Farrell noted that the AEC confirmed a "vanishingly small" number of discrepancies in for the 2019 election, with no one being prosecuted for multiple votes.

Alongside justice advocates, Labor has raised concerns for vulnerable Australians, and for those living in remote Indigenous communities.

"The Government's plans would not only see a return to long queues at polling booths, but also disenfranchise vulnerable Australians by preventing them from exercising their democratic right to vote," said the Senator.

"People living in remote Indigenous communities, those dealing with homelessness, and Australians escaping domestic violence often don't have the easy access to identification many take for granted."

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney shared the Senator's sentiments.

"This is a calculated and deliberate plan by the Government to weaken our democracy and make it harder for First Nations people to vote," she told the National Indigenous Times.

"It is a desperate attempt to import the very worst of US politics and Trump-style division.

"These are racist laws â€" and Labor opposes them. Many First Nations people do not have a birth certificate or easy access to approved identification."

The Shadow Minister accused the Prime Minister of "trying to stop people who might not vote for him from voting at all".

"The Prime Minister has invented a problem in a transparent attempt to save his own job," she said.

GetUp's First Nations Justice Campaign Director Larissa Baldwin said the "punitive voter ID laws" would see First Nations peoples turned away from voting on election day.

"Australia has a dark, racist history of denying First Nations people the vote, and these proposed laws are a very real threat to the right to vote for people living on Country."

"There's a two-tier voting system in Australia right now â€" and it's unacceptable. We need measures that make it easier for First Nations people in remote communities to cast their vote, not disenfranchise them."

Baldwin, like Burney, liked the laws to the actions of former US President Donald Trump.

"False and misleading claims of voter fraud are straight from Donald Trump's playbook â€" this is nothing more than voter suppression," she said.

"It's an attack on democracy which will affect many everyday people who don't have a fixed address, not just First Nations people but also young people, homeless people and people escaping domestic violence.

"It's crucial that at the next federal election there are no barriers for First Nations people exercising their right to vote."

The National Indigenous Times posed questions to Minister for Public Service Ben Morton. However, was advised the Minister would not be responding at this time.

By Rachael Knowles

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