Voting at a polling booth.
Voting at a polling booth. Mike Knott BUN251117ELECTION9

Lismore man wins court battle after refusing to vote

A NORTHERN Rivers man has successfully defended his choice not to vote in the 2016 federal election, telling a court voting would have left him "morally corrupt".

Goonellabah resident Adam Easton refused to visit a polling booth on voting day because he believed in "Freedom" and voting for any of the candidates would have compromised his ethics.

Mr Easton was sent a $20 fine from the Australian Electoral Commission which he refused to pay.

He was subsequently issued with a court summons for failing to vote, and pleaded not guilty in Lismore Local Court.

At a hearing in August, Mr Easton defended himself by relying on a section of the Commonwealth Electoral Act which provides for abstention on religious grounds.

A self-described agnostic, Mr Easton told the court his faith was "Freedom", and he could not have voted with his "moral integrity intact".

"If I had voted for somebody I did not trust... then I feel I would have walked away from that polling both feeling morally corrupt, much like a religious person, I imagine, if they had just sinned," he told the court.

In his judgement handed down in September and published until this week, Magistrate David Heilpern said the religious provision had never been tested in court and was "somewhat of a leap into the legal unknown".

He described the provision as "remarkably subjective" and only required the elector to "believe" it was part of their religious duty not to vote.

Mr Easton's reasons for not voting were "deeper, more philosophical" than simply disliking the candidates, Magistrate Heilpern noted.

"Having carefully considered the evidence of the defendant, I am satisfied that his evidence shows an honestly held belief, a moral code that requires him not to vote," he said.

"To vote would be to breach a truly held conscientious life viewpoint.

"The provision allows for a form of conscientious objection in my view, and that is what has been evidenced here.

"Accordingly, the charge is dismissed."

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