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Bringing Democracy Home

  • be 18 years of age or more
  • be an Australian citizen
  • have lived at their current address for one month.

Only the following are not entitled to be enrolled:

  • those of unsound mind (this is not interpreted punitively)
  • a person convicted of treason and not pardoned (there are no such persons in Australia)
  • those convicted and under sentence for a crime punishable by imprisonment for five years or longer (comparatively this is a very liberal provision, especially compared to the USA where most persons convicted of any felony lose the right to vote -sometimes permanently (Costar, 2003, pp 95-7).

The latest census data (2001) records Australia's homeless population at 99,900, of whom 88,000, according to the Homeless Persons'Legal Clinic (HPLC), are eligible to enrol to vote (Joint Select Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM), 2003, p 83).

The magnitude of the problem can be judged from the fact that, while Section 96 of The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (CEA) permits the enrolment of those without a permanent address, only 3965 persons in 2001 were enrolled pursuant to S 96. Furthermore the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is of the view that the bulk of those enrolled under S 96 are not 'homeless'in the usual sense of that term. Rather they are itinerant workers such as shearers and fruit pickers and 'grey nomads'on prolonged caravan holidays (Shannon, 2001, p 8).

To deny such a large cohort of already disadvantaged citizens such as the homeless effective electoral enfranchisement is not compatible with Australia's otherwise highly inclusive representative democracy. Thus, this research project addresses an important political deficiency and its solution will be instructive not just in Australia but also overseas.