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2019 Enrolment to Vote Report

ENROLMENT TO VOTE FOR PEOPLE IN CUSTODY

2019 REPORT

Throughout the first two months of 2019, Justice Action has been ensuring that authorities are providing prisoners and mental health patients with the opportunity to enrol and vote in the upcoming election. This includes the Australian Electoral Commission, state mental health authorities and corrective service authorities. The following report outlines this work as of the 25th March 2019.

1. AUSTRALIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION

18th March 2019Jeff Pope, the Deputy Electoral Commissioner of the AEC, responded to our queries by providing the following statement:

  • “Prisoners who have internet access can access the AEC’s Online Enrolment System to easily enrol or update their enrolment details online… There are also forms and directions on how to enrol readily available on the AEC website.”

We responded on the same day with the following statements:

  • We noted that prisoners do not have access to the internet and will not be able to enrol or update their enrolment details through online means.
  • We noted that the AEC did not respond to the issue of mental health patients in locked hospitals and asked if any arrangements have been made for them.

 

21st March 2019Robyn Legg, the Assistant Commissioner of the AEC, responded to our previous email on behalf of Jeff Pope:

  • “While the AEC has enrolment and voting information available on the AEC website, we do appreciate that this is not an option for everyone. The AEC information fact sheets and paper enrolment application forms are also distributed by our Divisional offices to prisoner facilities who will then make them available for the prisoner population.”
  • “[In relation to mental health patients in locked hospitals], we use a network of advocacy groups and providers to get information out… Mobile polling occurs in a number of health facilities during the election.”

 

2. PRISON AUTHORITIES

Most 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. Here are their responses.

Australian Capital Territory

Statement from Jon Peach, the Executive Director of the Australian Capital Territory Corrective Services (ACTCS), on the 13th February 2019:

  • “ACTCS is committed to providing detainees with the opportunity and facilities to vote, if they are eligible and enrolled. I can ensure that ACTCS make ever effort to promote enrolment to vote and to provide the appropriate enrolment documentation to detainees.”

 

New South Wales

Statement from Rosemary Caruana, the Acting Commissioner of Corrective Services NSW, on the 11th February 2019:

  • “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.”

 

Northern Territory

As of the 6th February 2019, the Northern Territory Corrective Services is in the process of providing a formal response.

 

Queensland

Statement from Andrew Beck, the Deputy Commissioner of Queensland Corrective Services (QCS), on the 12th March 2019:

  • “QCS has in place a formal arrangement with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) in which QCS provide s information on a monthly basis and as required to assist the AEC to update the electoral roll.”
  • “QCS liaises with the relevant electoral commission on key dates to assist in preparing for prisoners voting.”
  • “QCS displays posters within all units of correctional centres to provide advice to prisoners about voting, including when a prisoner may enrol or update their enrolment details, eligibility to vote, and key voting dates… Enrolment forms are provided to prisoners on request, and QCS provides assistance to prisoners to confirm their identity in accordance with the requirements of the AEC.”

 

South Australia

Statement from David Brown, the Chief Executive of South Australia’s Department for Correctional Services, on the 18th February 2019:

  • “The Department for Correctional Services (DCS) has recently confirmed the process for the upcoming 2019 Federal Election with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).”
  • “Prisoner voting enrolment forms will be made available to those prisoners who are eligible to vote, for return to the AEC by post.”
  • “Voting papers will then be addressed directly to each prisoner and sent to their attention at their current institution.”

 

Tasmania

Statement from Ian Thomas, the Director of Tasmania Prison Service, on the 29th January 2019:

  • “I confirm that necessary arrangements exist for those prisoners that are eligible to vote. Voting generally occurs by way of a postal vote. Applications and other relevant information are supplied to the TPS by the Australian Electoral Commission and made available to all prisoners within TPS facilities.”

 

Victoria

Statement from Rod Wise, the Deputy Commissioner of Operations from Corrections Victoria, on the 30th January 2019:

  • “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”

 

Western Australia

As of the 5th February 2019, the Western Australia Corrective Services Department, is in the process of providing a formal response.

 

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 responded by stating that he was unsure if psychiatric patients retain the right to vote. 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

As of the 12th February 2019, the ACT Local Hospital Network Directorate was contacted via email 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

To address this issue in NSW, Justice Action contacted the 16 Local Health Districts (LHD) that have jurisdiction to deal in this matter. 6 LHDs have provided a formal response, 7 LHDs have acknowledged the receipt of our email but have not provided a formal response, while 3 LHDs have not responded to our queries. Justice Action will continue to follow-up on the LHDs that have yet to respond.

  • The following LHDs have responded to our emails with these statements:
  • Steve Rodwell, Chief Executive of the Far West LHD: “I have brought this issue to the attention of the operational managers to ensure that our mental health patients have the opportunity to vote in any upcoming election.”
  • Jill Ludford, Chief Executive of the Murrumbidgee LHD: “Staff will ensure consumers are aware to enrol, if they are not already enrolled, and will assist them to enrol if they wish… The staff will ensure that the posters and relevant information is available to all inpatient consumers.”
  • Wayne Jones, the Chief Executive of the Northern NSW LHD: “Northern NSW LHD works in partnership with the Australian Electoral Commission to support the rights of patients to be enrolled to vote, and participate in the electoral process.”
  • Angela Karooz, the Director of Operations of the South Eastern Sydney LHD, responding on the Chief Executive’s behalf: “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.”
  • Cherie Puckett, Director of Mental Health Drug and Alcohol, Cancer, Renal, Palliative Care and Breast Screen of the Southern NSW LHD: “The AEC has provided an opportunity to support inpatient Mental Health facilities. Those people who are not registered with the electoral commission will be supported and encouraged to enrol and vote through consumer advocate support.”
  • Robynne Cooke, the Chief Executive of the Western Sydney LHD: “Mental Health staff are providing support to inpatients who may not be on an electoral role, while assistance will also be provided to patients who require postal vote enrolment applications.”
  • The following LHDs have acknowledged the receipt of our email but have not provided a formal response: Central Coast, Hunter New England, Mid North Coast, Northern Sydney, South-Western Sydney, Sydney and Illawarra Shoalhaven.
  • The following LHDs have not provided any response to our emails: Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network, Nepean Blue Mountains and Western NSW.

 

Northern Territory

Justice Action has contacted all 3 Health Networks (HN) of the Northern Territory but has only received a response from the Central Australia HN so far. Justice Action will continue to follow-up on the HNs that have yet to respond.

  • The Northern Territory Primary Health Network has acknowledged the receipt of our email on the 19th February 2019. However, no formal response has been provided.
  • The Top End Health Service has acknowledged the receipt of our email on the 12th February 2019 and stated that a formal response will be provided to us shortly.
  • The Central Australia Health Service responded to our email with the following statement: “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.”

 

Queensland

In Queensland, of the 16 Health Networks (HN) that have been contacted, 1 has responded, 3 have acknowledged the email but has not provided any formal responses, while 12 of the HNs have not responded to our queries at all. Justice Action will continue to follow-up on the HNs that have yet to respond.

  • The following HNs have responded to our emails with these statements:
  • Dr Thomas John, Delegate Chief Psychiatrist of Queensland’s Department of Health: “Queensland Health, while independent of elections, makes all reasonable efforts to ensure patients are able to vote in elections. Polling booths are set up in the larger public hospitals and staff are encouraged to assist all patients, where possible, to access their entitlement to vote.”
  • The following HNs have acknowledged the receipt of our email but have not provided a formal response: Cairns and Hinterland, Central Queensland and Sunshine Coast.
  • The following HNs have not provided any response to our emails: Central West, Darling-Downs, Gold Coast, Mackay, Metro North, Metro South, North West, South West, Torres-Strait Northern Peninsula, Townsville, West Moreton and Wide Bay.

 

South Australia

In South Australia, of the 6 Health Networks (HN) have been contacted, 1 has responded, 1 has acknowledged the email but has not provided a formal response, while 4 of the HNs have not responded to our queries at all. We also emailed the Chief Psychiatrist of SA, but did not receive any response. Justice Action will continue to follow-up on the HNs that have yet to respond.

  • Peta Towner, the executive assistant to the Commissioner of SA Mental Health Commission, has responded to our email with the following statement: “The SA Mental Health Commission has no statutory authority to liaise with the Australian Electoral Commission on behalf of people in psychiatric hospitals.”
  • The Department of Health and Wellbeing SA has acknowledged the receipt of our email but has not provided a formal response.
  • The following HNs have not provided any response to our emails: Central Adelaide, Country Health SA, Northern Adelaide, Southern Adelaide and SA Mental Health Commission.

 

Tasmania

In Tasmania, we contacted Dr Aaron Groves, the Chief Psychiatrist of Tasmania and the Department of Health and Human Services. Both have acknowledged the emails. The Chief Psychiatrist referred the issue to the Tasmanian Health Service.

Victoria

In Victoria, 14 out of 15 Health Networks (HN) were contacted, 2 have responded, 4 have acknowledged the email but has not provided any formal responses, while 8 of the HNs have not responded to our queries at all. Justice Action will continue to follow-up on the HNs that have yet to respond.

  • The following HNs have responded to our emails with these statements:
  • Felicity Topp, Chief Executive of Peninsula HN: “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 co-ordinated by our Corporate and Community Relations team and is managed very well preceding every election.”
  • Paula Hakesley, General Manager Mental Health program of Monash HN: “I am able to provide assurance that our consumers are able to vote and have all necessary documentation and assistance available to them to ensure that they can do so.” They order posters from the AEC, download “easy read” brochures, also in languages other than English that are made available to the units. Consumer Peer Support Workers on impatient units will discuss enrolment forms with consumers, as well as supporting patients to go the website, or providing them with enrolment forms that are obtained from the post office.
  • The following HNs have acknowledged the receipt of our email but have not provided a formal response: Albury-Wodonga, Alfred, Eastern, Melbourne, and Northern.
  • The following HNs have not provided any response to our emails: Austin, Ballart Health Services, Barwon, Bendigo, Goulburn Valley, The Royal Women’s Hospital, Western.

Western Australia

In Western Australia, 12 of the Health Networks (HN) were contacted, 1 has responded, 3 have acknowledged the email but has not provided any formal responses, while 8 of the HNs have not responded to our queries at all. Justice Action will continue to follow-up on the HNs that have yet to respond.

  • The following HNs have responded to our emails with these statements:
  • Shauna Rose, Coordinator Executive Services of Great Southern HN: “In the event that a person is a patient during an election, eligible patients are able to cast their vote from the APU. The protocols for voting within the Albany hospital that are used by all patients of the hospital are available to patients in the APU.”
  • The following HNs have acknowledged the receipt of our email but have not provided a formal response: East Metropolitan, Kimberly, WA Country.
  • The following HNs have not provided any response to our emails: Chief Psychiatrist of WA, Dr Nathan Gibson, Child and Adolescent, Goldfields, Midwest, North Metropolitan, Pilbara, South Metropolitan, South West.

 

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