Justice Action was recently engaged in a nation wide enquiry into what efforts had been made to guarantee that all eligible prisoners and non-voluntary patients are able to vote in the upcoming election. Voting is a fundamental civil right for any citizen and nobody should be excluded from this process. Justice Action revealed a lack of adequate consideration being put into preparing that all Australians have their fair opportunity to participate in Election Day.
A person who is able to vote has the same voice in our democracy as every other Australian, because a prisoner gets one vote just like Rudd or Abbot when it comes to ballot time. It is a question of equality that has been fought hard to win and to preserve throughout Australian history. This issue is of vital importance for those affected and a concern for all those who value democratic values.
Australians who are held inside institutions against their will rely on those in charge to allow them a chance to vote. Australian prisoners who are serving a sentence of more than three years are not eligible to vote under current law. Mental health patients are vulnerable to lose their voting rights if they are deemed to be unsound of mind by a medical practitioner. There are already many challenges for eligibility to vote so those who are eligible must be given a proper chance to vote in the election.
Only as recently as 2007 were prisoners allowed the right to vote when Vickie Roach challenged the high court on the Howard government’s decision to take the right to vote away from prisoners. When the High Court held that the law was not valid it was a huge victory for prisoners throughout the country and for democracy.
All in all, Justice Action wishes you read this edition of JUST US to help you decide who you vote for on September 7.