Case Study: Roach v. Electoral Commissioner An investigation of the High Court case of



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Summary of the case:
Vicki Lee Roach was a Victorian woman of Aboriginal descent, who was serving a six year term of imprisonment, having been convicted on five counts of offences that included burglary, conduct endangering persons and negligently causing serious injury. She challenged the validity of the 2006 amendments made to the Electoral Act 1918 (Cth), by the passage of the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Act 2006 (Cth). The amendments prohibited all prisoners who were serving a sentence of imprisonment for a Commonwealth, state or territory offence from voting in federal elections. Before the amendment only those prisoners serving a sentence of three years or longer were excluded from voting. Thus, Ms Roach was excluded from voting.
Ms Roach’s challenge to the validity of the 2006 amendment was heard by the High Court in September 2007.
The High Court held that the complete ban on prisoners voting was unconstitutional, as it was inconsistent with the principles of representative government. This principle requires that members of parliament are elected into office by the people they seek to represent. Sections 7 and 24 of the Constitution require that Senators and members of the House of Representatives are directly chosen by the people; therefore there is a right to vote, that had been violated by this legislation. The 2006 amendment was declared to be invalid.
The outcome of the case had far reaching implications for the legal system in terms of recognising that there is a constitutionally protected right to vote in Australia.

However, as Vicki Lee Roach was serving a prison term of longer than three years, and the original provisions of the Electoral Act were upheld, Ms Roach was still ineligible to vote in elections.



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