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Electoral (Prisoner Voting) Amendment Bill

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:39): I rise to speak on the Electoral (Prisoner Voting) Amendment Bill. Under this bill, a person who is serving a sentence of three years or more will be ineligible to vote. The bill will also capture high-risk offenders and those who are unwilling or unable to control their sexual instincts. It will mirror federal legislation and other states where prisoners are excluded from voting. However, the sentencing periods vary from state to state. South Australia is currently the only state which does not impose restrictions on prisoners voting, with the ACT being the only other jurisdiction in Australia which does not have similar provisions.

I note that the Law Society has objected to the bill, including those serving home detention, and that, federally, those serving a home detention sentence longer than the stipulated period are not excluded from voting. The government has addressed this in their second reading and explained that home detention is a form of incarceration and that if the justification for the bill is accepted, serious offenders who break the law should not be able to decide who makes the laws, and home detention should be included. I understand that there was some concern that the bill would mean that people would need to re-enrol once they are eligible in order to go back onto the roll. However, I understand a person's right to vote is reinstated automatically once they are eligible.

One matter that I raised at my briefing on this bill was the manner in which voting is conducted in prisons. To me, it makes sense that voting would be undertaken by way of utilising postal votes rather than focusing resources into having to have the votes done in person. The briefing was held by the Attorney-General's office, rather than the Electoral Commission, so no answer was forthcoming. However, I am sure there are reasons why postal votes are not used. If it could be done, it would be worthwhile for the government to consider this as a means of streamlining voting in prisons.