ENROLMENT TO VOTE FOR PEOPLE IN CUSTODY
1. AUSTRALIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION
Justice Action first approached the Australian Electoral Commission in early 2019, after which they were approached 3 additional times. Contact was made with Tom Rogers, the Electoral Commissioner, yet they still have not explained their approach.
2. PRISON AUTHORITIES
All commissioners in the states and territories have acknowledged their responsibility to ensure prisoners in their jurisdiction will be given posters informing them of how to enrol to vote. Examples of this can be found in the responses from Victoria and NSW.
In January 2019, the Deputy Commissioner of Operations from Corrections Victoria replied that:
- “Corrections Victoria has been working closely over the past two years with the Victorian Electoral Commission on increasing the uptake of prisoners who are eligible to vote. This has included in-person voting opportunities at several of our prisons in the recent Victorian State election, as well as increased information being provided at prisoners where only postal voting was offered.”
- “Prior to this, the Victorian Electoral Commission funded focus groups with prisoners at several of our prisoners in an effort to understand why prisoners more often than not choose not to vote when they are eligible. I am yet to receive such statistics on the number of prisoners who choose to vote in last years’ state election, however I suspect the proportion will be higher than it has been in previous elections. We have also worked closely in the past with the Australian Electoral Commission in several ways”
- “Corrections Victoria will continue these efforts and communication with prisoners in the lead up to and during this year’s federal election”
Similarly, the Acting Commissioner of Corrective Services NSW replied:
- “Corrective Services NSW has arrangements in place to distribute electoral information, signage, envelopes and voting forms provided by the Australian Electoral Commission. CSNSW has informed inmates about postal voting arrangements in the past and will continue to do so for the forthcoming elections. The AEC has advised it will be providing enrolment information, signage and associated material for inmates in February 2019. CSNSW will distribute that information and support inmates to enrol and vote by post.”
3. MENTAL HEALTH AUTHORITIES
This process has been more difficult with mental health authorities, where the civil rights of prisoners are less recognised. In fact, one state Commissioner asked JA if psychiatric patients retain the right to vote. He didn’t know! Multiple emails and phone calls regarding the insufficient supply of information to patients regarding their right to vote were sent to the relevant mental health authorities in all states and territories, which received a mixed set of responses.
Australian Capital Territory
- The ACT Local Hospital Network Directorate was emailed but they have yet to reply or acknowledge the email. Nevertheless, we will be following up on these emails with logged phone calls.
New South Wales
- In NSW, 17 South Eastern Districts have all answered with varying responses. One such response comes from the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, which stated:
“Coordination with the Australian Electoral Commission for the three SESLHD Mental Health Inpatient Units located on the Prince of Wales Hospital, St George Hospital and the Sutherland Hospital Campuses is undertaken by the management of facilities in which the Services are located. All Mental Health inpatients will have access to postal voting – voter education materials, and will be assisted with the postal voting process by Volunteers and Peer Workers”
- In the Northern Territory, 3 primary health networks were contacted, where one responded: “Inpatients who are eligible to vote around the time of an election are encouraged to do so when the Australian Electoral Commission conducts mobile voting at the hospital prior to and on election day.”
- In Queensland, of 16 local health districts that have been contacted, only 3 have acknowledged the email but no responses have been received. However, follow-up emails have been sent with phone calls to follow.
- In Tasmania, the 2 authorities have acknowledged the email but gave no indication regarding when they would answer it. As a result, follow-up emails and phone calls have been sent.
- In South Australia, none of the 7 health networks contacted have replied or acknowledged the email that was sent. As such, these emails will be followed up together with phone calls.
- In Victoria, 15 health networks have responded, providing a varying degree of responses by giving indications such as:
“Our mental health patients are provided with VEC face-to-face voting facility opportunities, along with posters and information regarding the election process inclusive of postal votes. The process is coordinated by our Corporate and Community Relations team and is managed very well preceding every election.” Given by Peninsula Health.
- Monash Health on the other hand, detailed their process of providing information for mental health patients, including providing for CALD background patients, such as non-English resources and have support workers to discuss and assist patients with enrolment forms. These resources are made available to patients with communal iPads, or their own devices, and forms from the post office. They then contact relevant electoral offices to arrange staff and polling booths in the ward on Election Day.
- In WA, of the 12 mental heath districts, 3 have given patchy responses whereas the others have yet to reply, meaning that we will follow up on the emails, together with phone calls.