With four elections in twelve months it’s likely that allegations about electoral fraud will surge in 2010. In Inside Story Brian Costar looks at two court cases that exposed a striking lack of evidence behind the claims
UNLIKE THEIR counterparts in the United States, Australian courts play only an occasional and limited role in federal and state elections. Sections 30 and 31 of the Australian constitution gives parliament wide powers to make its own electoral laws, and the courts have generally kept out.
In the United States the protracted battle to ensure that electorates contain roughly equal numbers of voters was eventually resolved in the courts, but on the two occasions when the High Court of Australia was invited to rule on the matter – the cases of McKinlay in 1975 and McGinty in 1996 – it demurred. It did, however, uphold prisoners’ voting rights in the Roach case of 2007, and in doing so identified an implicit right to vote in the constitution.
Since the last federal election, by chance, the Federal Court of Australia and the Supreme Court of Queensland have each ruled on cases of disputed electoral returns. Both involved public pre-trial allegations of vote rigging and both were resolved around matters that had nothing whatsoever to do with electoral fraud...