By Nick Adams
CANBERRA, Australia – Just as the United States is embroiled in the issue of vote fraud, and whether voters should be required to identify themselves to vote as a measure of fraud prevention, the same issue is being discussed in Australia.
Only Down Under, the situation is the other way around. Voting, optional for Americans, is mandatory across Australia, with fines for failing to appear on election day and additional penalties for failing to pay the fines.
WND recently reported on the suspicions of widespread vote fraud during the 2012 U.S. election, and how the evidence cited in that comprehensive report “provides a powerful justification for, at a minimum, enacting strong voter ID laws throughout the nation.”
“Is vote fraud real? Yes. Did it occur in this election? Yes. Was it enough to steal the election? In reality, although no single instance or aspect of vote fraud was likely enough to tip the election for Obama, the aggregate of their corrupt activities – including illegal campaign donations, taking advantage of states without voter ID requirements, military ballots delivered too late, as well as the laundry list of elements identified in this report, may well have been,” the report concluded.
In Australia, the discussion arose when officials in the state of Queensland released a paper suggesting the implementation of voluntary voting.
Such a move would be end nearly a century of mandatory voting. Since 1924, Australians have been forced to the ballot box, facing financial penalty for non-compliance, and prosecution for refusal to settle such a fine.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, of the Australian Labor Party, struck out at the suggestion of the conservative government of Queensland, charging the Liberal Party with trying to make democracy “‘the plaything of cashed-up interest groups” and vowing to fight the proposal.
Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan, who last week blamed the U.S. tea party for the Australian government’s inability to deliver a previously promised budget surplus in 2012-13, also attacked the Queensland government’s suggestion.
“These are the tactics of the tea party in the U.S. trying to stop people having their say,” he said.
With no express constitutional requirement for compulsory voting in Australia, all parliaments are free to make voting voluntary.
Despite this, such electoral reform has been rarely raised, and until now enjoyed little prominence in national discourse.
Opinion in Australia is mixed toward the current model but in the absence of an overwhelming majority view, odds favor its retention, according to most political observers. More cynical commentators suggest a change is not imminent due to those with the power to implement reform are the beneficiaries of the current system.
Recent surveys have indicated voluntary voting would advantage conservatives, explaining the fiery reaction of the country’s political left, including politicians and unions, since the paper’s public release.
Opponents of the proposal have also included prominent members of the conservative party such as former Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, and lackluster NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, both referring to the American example in their arguments.
“Hot-button issues that will get people up and get them out to vote… that’s why you see issues like guns and abortion and gay marriage and others being issues that get a lot more focus in America than probably they should,” Turnbull said.
Meanwhile, O’Farrell says he has no plans to make voting voluntary at the next New South Wales state election in 2015.
“We’ve got no plans to change our compulsory system of voting. I’d hate to have a situation [like] the United States in 2004 where a president is elected with the support of just 27 per cent of the population.”
Supporters of a move to voluntary voting say that the compulsory system allows an underserving party to always remain competitive, an untalented candidate to be elected and is at the root of extensive public dissatisfaction with the political process. They believe the common gripes of Australian politics today – an absence of leadership, will, ideology, personality, diversity of opinion and freedom of speech – are the realities of a system where risk and party disunity are dangerous.
Eric Abetz, a Liberal Party frontbencher and long-time supporter of voluntary voting, said on Thursday that he favored an end to the current system due to “personal liberty issues” but that federal conservative party policy was to keep it.
“I’m not making a cause celebre out of it,” he said. “It’s a personal point of view.”
In Australia, the issue of “voting irregularities” also is rising.
It outlines the arguments for and against the introduction of voting proof of identification. While allegations of widespread electoral fraud remain unproven, anecdotal evidence suggests that the absence of proof of identity requirements are facilitating at least some voter fraud.
Currently, within Australia, there exists no electoral jurisdiction that necessitates identity verification prior to voting. Such circumstances enable an individual to potentially cast multiple votes at different polling stations within a district. Additionally, the absence of photographic information enfranchises voter impersonation, with knowledge only of a voter’s registered address sufficient.
Study groups have found that voter ID requirements would protect against voter impersonation and raise confidence in the electoral process. But they also said the plan could “discriminate” against those who don’t have photographic IDs or those who simply forgot to bring them along.
The Australian research also noted a conclusion of the Financial Times, which said during the 2012 election in Pennsylvania, more than 750,000 registered voters did not have the required forms of identification, and Obama won the state by only 600,000 votes.
The WND report on voter fraud during the 2012 election found that the Obama team “Ran an intensely focused, highly organized get-out-the-vote effort. Republican efforts were, by comparison, disorganized and nowhere near as comprehensive or sophisticated.”
But it found “members of the president’s team did everything possible to rig the game in their favor. They took liberties with the law Republicans would never dare attempt and obstructed voter-integrity efforts at every turn, while the vast political-media-entertainment-education-union-nonprofit complex went all in to promote Obama’s narrative.”