Voting for people in prison a step forward, but practical barrier remain

Thursday 2 May 2019

In response to the government’s announcement yesterday that people in prison will get the right to vote in State and local government elections, Greens MP Michael Berkman said: 

“This is good step in the right direction. Democracy is for everyone.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up a shockingly high proportion of those in prison, so a blanket ban on prisoners voting always had some very ugly implications.

“Under the current rules someone serving three months for traffic offences or minor drug possession is stripped of their right to vote.

“People who are criminalised have often suffered terrible trauma themselves, including violence at the hands of State government institutions which our Parliament oversees.

“Crime and criminalisation is all too often a result of people not being provided the bare necessities we all need to live a safe and happy life.

“Until yesterday, Queensland is the only place in the country still hanging on to John Howard’s unconstitutional voting bans.

“Back in 2006, with no Parliamentary scrutiny and no real debate, Labor quietly passed a law to copy John Howard.

The bill moves the cut off for postal vote applications from three days to two weeks, and also requires people in prison to vote via postal ballot rather than in person which occurs in other States, and which occurs for residents of other institutions.

“Imposing mandatory postal voting for people in prison while adding extra barriers to postal voting means most of these 9000 Queenslanders will practically remain disenfranchised. The government should reconsider this aspect of the reform. Link here - see page 5.

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