Independent candidate flags legal challenge to ensure all Australians with COVID can vote
High-profile independent candidate Monique Ryan is planning a legal challenge to ensure all Australians with COVID-19 are able to vote in the federal election.
Telephone voting is available for people who tested positive for COVID-19 after 6pm on Tuesday and are required to isolate at home.
But postal voting no longer an available for those who tested positive between Saturday and Tuesday, and are not allowed to vote in person or at pre-poll.
The Australian Electoral Commission has conceded that this regulation means many people may be unable to vote in the federal election.
Independent candidate Monique Ryan, who is challenging Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the Melbourne seat of Kooyong, is fundraising to support a Federal Court challenge that may be lodged on Friday.
“Today at prepoll a neighbour came to me in tears – her husband has COVID and had just realised that he won’t be able to vote on Saturday,” Dr Ryan said.
“I soon discovered that it wasn’t just him. I started hearing from dozens of people in the same boat.”
On News Breakfast this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said every Australian should have the chance to vote, but says the AEC is an independent body and “not something for politicians to interfere in.”
The ABC has been told Labor urged Special Minister of State, Ben Morton, to change the regulation on Thursday if possible to allow more people to vote over the telephone.
In a statement, the Australian Electoral Commission said it was already struggling to staff the telephone service.
“We have around 5,000 operators for the telephone voting solution which is at the absolute limits of our ability to staff it with COVID furloughing, hence the deadline in the regulations being tied to the postal vote application deadline,” a spokesman told the ABC.
“It also doesn’t operate in a vacuum either. We, like others, have had pandemic resourcing challenges – our 105,00 staff for other services being very difficult to achieve.
“Waiting times are long on the phone service, so limited to those people without an alternative.”
By political reporter Henry Belot