Opponents of the Morrison government’s VoterID bill, currently being debated by Parliament, have regularly pointed out that some groups of voters will be disadvantaged by the new law if passed.
The argument is that some groups of electors are less likely to have the forms of identification set out in the bill, meaning they will be disproportionally represented amongst those denied access to an ordinary vote.
The group most often mentioned is Indigenous voters, in particular remote Indigenous voters, and the electoral division where this will have the most impact is Lingiari, the sprawling outback Northern Territory seat.
According to the 2016 Census, 40% of the division’s residents are Indigenous. But because remote voters are not included in the national automatic enrolment program, and because of cuts in remote indigenous enrolment programs, indigenous voters make up less than 40% of enrolled electors in Lingiari.
In Lingiari, remote postal services are largely non-existent and the electorate has the nation’s lowest rate of postal voting at 2.9%. As a proportion of electors, this figure is even lower in comparison to other divisions because Lingiari consistently has the nation’s lowest turnout. The turnout in Lingiari at the 2019 election was 72.9% compared to the national figure of 91.9%.
Turnout is low because remote Indigenous voters have little access to election day polling places used by other Australians, and because pre-poll ordinary voting is generally only available in Alice Springs, Katherine, and around Greater Darwin.
Most Indigenous votes are collected by remote mobile polling teams that travel around the electorate visiting communities for as little as one hour on a single day.
One of the key campaign jobs of candidates in Lingiari is making sure communities know when a mobile team is turning up, and making sure community members are around to vote when it arrives. Many miss out.
So Lingiari is central to the debate on voter ID. Remote indigenous electors are already the category of Australians least likely to be enrolled, least likely to have the opportunity to vote, and due to this new law, may become the group least likely to be allowed to cast an ordinary vote.Read More »Why the NT seat of Lingiari keeps being mentioned in the VoterID Debate