In a majority decision, a full Court of the High Court found that amendments made to the Electoral Act by the Howard Government in 2006 were invalid.
In 2006 the Howard Government amended the Act by closing the electoral rolls at 8pm on the day election writs were issued. Previously voters had one week to enroll or change their details with the Electoral Commission.
Today's decision by the High Court means that 100,000 people who were denied the chance to vote by the early closure of the rolls for this year's federal election can now cast a ballot.
"That figure is roughly the size of Bendigo or Ballarat, or almost the size of a federal electorate," Mallesons partner Robert Cooper told Lawyers Weekly. Cooper, who called the result "a great day for the Australian democratic process" is the responsible partner in Melbourne for Mallesons' Human Rights Law Group. He led a team that included an additional 16 solicitors and graduates.
Mallesons were first approached to act on the matter by the Human Rights Law Resource Centre, who in turn were referred by the political activist group GetUp! The actual plaintiffs in the case were Shannen Rowe, an 18 year-old law student from Sydney, and Douglas Thompson. Ron Merkel QC, Kristen Walker, Fiona Forsyth and Neil McAteer of Counsel also assisted.
Cooper said that given the case went from issue to judgment in 11 days, it would rank as one of the quickest High Court cases in recent times.
It is estimated that at the last federal election in 2004 before the now invalid amendments were enacted, 423,000 people enrolled, re-enrolled or updated their details with the Electoral Commission within one week of the election being called.