Giving Voice to the Voiceless Giving Voice to the Voiceless Submission to the Inquiry into the 2001

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Transcript of Giving Voice to the Voiceless Giving Voice to the Voiceless Submission to the Inquiry into the 2001

  • Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic – Submission to Inquiry into the 2001 Federal Election

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    Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic

    Giving Voice to the Voiceless

    Submission to the Inquiry into the

    2001 Federal Election

    July 2002

    Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic

    Public Interest Law Clearing House

    Level One, 550 Lonsdale Street

    Melbourne VIC 3000

    Tel: (03) 9225 6684 Fax: (03) 9225 6686

    Email: projects.pilch@vicbar.com.au

  • Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic – Submission to Inquiry into the 2001 Federal Election

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    Giving Voice to the Voiceless

    Submission to the Inquiry into the 2001 Federal Election

    Brianna Harrison and Philip Lynch

    Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic

    Public Interest Law Clearing House

    Level One, 550 Lonsdale Street

    Melbourne VIC 3000

    Tel: (03) 9225 6684

    Fax: (03) 9225 6686

    Email: projects.pilch@vicbar.com.au

    Acknowledgements

    The Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic gratefully acknowledges the very significant contribution of

    Clayton Utz to this submission.

    The Clinic would particularly like to thank:

    Karen Brown – Articled Clerk, Clayton Utz

    Brianna Harrison – Solicitor, Clayton Utz and volunteer lawyer at the Clinic

    Sara McCluskey – Solicitor, Clayton Utz and volunteer lawyer at the Clinic

    Sally Weston – Solicitor, Clayton Utz and volunteer lawyer at the Clinic

    The Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic also acknowledges The Big Issue Australia for their efforts

    in enfranchising the homeless and coordinating the ‘Votes for the Homeless’ campaign. In

    particular, the Clinic acknowledges the contribution and commitment of:

    Meg Mundell – Deputy Editor and Staff Writer, The Big Issue Australia

    Simon Castles – Editor, The Big Issue Australia

  • Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic – Submission to Inquiry into the 2001 Federal Election

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    Table of Contents

    1. Executive Summary and Recommendations ........................................................... 5

    1.1 Introduction ................................................................................................... 5 1.2 Recommendations ........................................................................................ 5

    2. Introduction ................................................................................................................. 7

    2.1 What is the Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic?............................................... 7 2.2 Persons assisted by the Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic............................. 7 2.3 Significance of voting to the homeless.......................................................... 7 2.4 Definition of “homelessness” ......................................................................... 7 2.5 Statistics on homelessness in Australia ........................................................ 8 2.6 Representation of homeless people on the Australian electoral

    roll ................................................................................................................. 9

    3. Voting in Australian Federal Elections ................................................................... 10

    3.1 Constitutional right to vote........................................................................... 10 3.2 International law right to vote ...................................................................... 10 3.3 Who is entitled to vote in federal elections?................................................ 10 3.4 What is the procedure pursuant to which a person entitled to

    vote normally exercises the right to vote?................................................... 11 3.5 What are the penalties for failing to vote?................................................... 13 3.6 How is the right to vote exercised and how are the penalties

    enforced? .................................................................................................... 13 3.7 How do enrolment and enforcement provisions impact on the

    ability of homeless persons to enrol to vote or to exercise their right to vote under section 93 of the Act? What are the practical impediments or disincentives to homeless people enrolling or voting under section 93? ............................................................................. 15

    4. Current Itinerant Voter Provisions .......................................................................... 20

    4.1 Itinerant voters under the Act ...................................................................... 20 4.2 How many people are currently registered as itinerant voters? .................. 21 4.3 What is the procedure pursuant to which a person entitled to

    vote as an itinerant elector exercises the right to vote? .............................. 21 4.4 What practical impediments or disincentives to homeless people

    voting in the normal way do the itinerant voting provisions overcome? How? ....................................................................................... 22

    4.5 What practical impediments or disincentives to homeless people voting in the normal way do the itinerant voting provisions fail to overcome? Why? ........................................................................................ 22

    5. Overseas Models and Provisions for the Enrolment of Homeless People and the Exercise of the Right to Vote ........................................................ 25

    5.1 United Kingdom: The Representation of the People Act 2000 (UK)............................................................................................................. 25

    5.2 United States: National Voter Registration Act 1992 (US) .......................... 26 5.3 United States: Equal Protection of Voting Rights Act of 2001

    s.565/H.R. 3295 (US).................................................................................. 28 5.4 United States: Model State Homeless Voter Registration Act and

    enactment of homeless voting registration laws in American states........................................................................................................... 28

  • Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic – Submission to Inquiry into the 2001 Federal Election

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    5.5 Canada: Canada Elections Act 2000 (Can) ................................................ 34

    6. Conclusion – Improving the Representation of Homeless People on the Electoral Roll and in the Next Federal Election ............................................... 36

    7. Endorsements ........................................................................................................... 37

    8. Annexure A – Section 101 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth)............................................................................................................................ 39

    9. Annexure B – Section 245 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 ................. 41

    10. Annexure C – Section 96 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth)............................................................................................................................ 44

    11. Appendix A – Approved Form for Claim to Vote ................................................... 47

    12. Appendix B – Approved Form for Enrolment as Itinerant Elector ....................... 50

  • Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic – Submission to Inquiry into the 2001 Federal Election

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    1. Executive Summary and Recommendations

    1.1 Introduction

    This submission is made by the Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic. It is endorsed by the organisations and individuals listed in Part 7.

    In 1996, more than 105,000 people in Australia were homeless. Many more were at risk of homelessness. It is estimated that approximately 88,000 homeless people are eligible voters.

    Estimates of the proportion of homeless people who are eligible but not registered to vote vary from 33 to 90 per cent. This suggests that between 29,000 and 80,000 homeless people did not vote in the 2001 Federal Election.

    The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) (“the Act”) determines who has the right to vote at federal elections and the procedure pursuant to which that right is exercised. This submission examines the impact of the Act’s requirements relating to enrolment and voting on the exercise of the right to vote by homeless people in Australia.

    The submission argues that the requirements and restrictions relating to "normal" electors may prevent and discourage homeless people from being noted on the electoral roll. The submission also argues that the provisions relating to “itinerant” electors should be reviewed, amended and targeted so as to enable homeless people to participate in federal elections regardless of the form of shelter in which they are domicile prior to and at the time of elections.

    The submission makes recommendations as to appropriate legal and social reforms aimed at enabling and empowering homeless people to enrol to vote, exercise their right to vote, and meaningfully participate in the federal democratic process. Recommendations include legislative amendments, policy development and changes to the budgetary allocation of the AEC.

    1.2 Recommendations

    Recommendation 1: Amend the Act so that persons who give details of why they cannot provide an "address" as to where they "live" are able to nominate an address in the Subdivision with which they have a