A successful High Court challenge to electoral laws involving Mallesons Stephen Jaques last year has been recognised into law by Federal Parliament.
Yesterday (12 May) the Senate passed the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment and Prisoner Voting) Bill 2010. This restores the seven-day voting period in which people can enrol to vote after a federal election writ has been issued.
Last year, Mallesons successfully acted pro bono for two university students in a High Court case challenging changes to the Electoral Act enacted by the Howard government in 2006 that closed the electoral rolls at 8pm on the day election writs were issued.
"This is a great victory for democracy," Mallesons partner Robert Cooper told Lawyers Weekly. Cooper led a team of eight solicitors and graduates from the firm in addition to Ron Merkel QC, Kristen Walker, Fiona Forsyth and Neil McAteer of Counsel.
Cooper, the Melbourne partner responsible for Mallesons' Human Rights Law Group, said that as the case went from issue to judgment in 11 days, his team "didn't get much sleep and worked through the weekend" in order to juggle this case with their usual commitments to the firm.
"Pro bono work is a way for lawyers to give back to the community and it also shows that Mallesons cares." said Cooper. "This was seen by the firm as an important issue to act on and really energised the whole staff."
Mallesons was first approached to act on the matter by the Human Rights Law Centre, an organisation the firm has regularly acted for on a pro bono basis.
After the High Court decision in early August last year, it was estimated that around 100,000 Australians who would have been denied the chance to vote under the now invalid Howard government amendments could cast a ballot in the 2010 federal election.