Prisoners denied vote

Media release: Wednesday May 25, 2016

“Most people in prisons and locked hospitals across Australia are eligible to vote but won’t be participating in the 2016 Federal Election. Last week in several NSW jails not one person surveyed had been given information about enrolment” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

“Their right to vote was attacked and successfully defended in 1997 and 2006, as well as in NZ in 2015. This failure to properly enrol people in prisons and locked hospitals has had the same result for 44,000 people, 78% of whom are likely to be eligible. The General Manager of Australia’s largest prison said that only two people had voted in 2013. Yet enrolment and voting are compulsory. These laws empower powerless people so the authorities ignore them. If other laws were enforced so poorly we would have empty prisons. ” said Mr Collins.

“Since 2004 we have pursued Electoral Commissions in all states and territories, federally and in NZ to ensure that the political status of these otherwise excluded people is respected. The Electoral Commissions have the obligation and powers to maintain the roll, but focus only on removing prisoners and don’t use the same information sources to enrol them. WA and Qsld were open to change, Victoria acknowledged the problem in a 2010 report, and others agreed that locked mental hospitals needed attention. But nothing has happened. Some tried to shift responsibility, misled in explanations, and refused access to MOU’s. Latest full report is here” said Mr Collins.

“All political parties have contributed statements to the newspaper JUST US specifically for those people detained in prisons and hospitals, distributed nationally as a constitutional right to information. The special edition will be launched on June 10th in Trades Hall, Sydney.

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