Prominent teal independent Monique Ryan has blamed Prime Minister Scott Morrison for a controversial voting issue, which was changed after she threatened legal action against the Australian Electoral Commission.
State Special Minister Ben Morton, who Dr Ryan planned to take to federal court, confirmed in a statement on Friday that the eligibility criteria for telephone voting has been expanded after a recommendation from the AEC.
Earlier, the AEC had stated that anyone who tested positive for Covid between Saturday and 6pm on Tuesday cannot do a telephone vote because they were eligible to apply for a postal vote.
“The federal government, in consultation with the federal opposition, has immediately acted on advice provided by the AEC this morning,” Mr Morton said in a statement.
“Any voter has tested positive for Covid-19 after 6pm Friday 13th May will be able to access the Secure Telephone Voting service.”
In response to the news, Dr Ryan said they are “relieved”, but blamed Mr Morrison for creating the problem.
“We are so relieved that the Prime Minister has been forced to change this law,” she posted on Twitter.
“It‘s extraordinary that we had to crowdfund last night to sue our own government for the ability to vote.
This was entirely predictable. Who caused this situation? Scott Morrison. Who provided certainty? An Independent.”
The initial news that some Australians might not be able to vote immediately created outrage in the community, with Dr Ryan calling it a “disenfranchisement of voters”.
“I think it’s safe to assume that a great many people who were in their sick beds with Covid didn’t know about the postal vote deadline,” she posted on Thursday.
“I’m going to guess that young people, people who speak a different language at home, etc are VERY unlikely to have known about this.”
She raised $126,000 from donors to take legal action against Mr Morton over the voting regulations he passed.
“We‘re taking Special Minister of State, Ben Morton, to the Federal Court tomorrow (Friday),” she posted.
“We’re fighting to ensure up to 201,000 Australians with Covid can vote this election.
“We shouldn’t have to sue our government to ensure everyone with Covid can vote in this election.”
The AEC said people who tested positive between Saturday and 6pm on Tuesday are not eligible for a telephone vote due to voting legislation and regulations.
“People who did not apply for a postal vote before the Wednesday 6pm application deadline, haven’t voted yet, tested positive before 6pm Tuesday, and are in isolation through to after election day, may not be able to vote,” the AEC posted to Twitter on Thursday.
“People who tested positive to Covid after 6pm on Tuesday (and haven’t voted yet) are eligible for a telephone vote.
“Telephone voting is an emergency service only, for the unique circumstances of the pandemic, with deadlines set in the legislation/regulations. It is for people who are eligible for the service and have had no other option after their positive test.”
Dr Ryan said it would only take the “stroke of a pen” from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to fix the issue, which she is concerned could decide close electoral races.
“At least 201,000 people tested positive during that period, according to case numbers. Which is 1.2 per cent of the electoral roll,” she posted
“That’s enough to determine the result in many close races. There were eight electorates closer than that in 2019.”
Dr Ryan is in what is expected to be a tight race for the seat of Kooyong against federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.