National ignores prisoner voting rights | The Jackal

26 May 2017

National ignores prisoner voting rights

You might recall the National party introducing the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill in 2010 to take away prisoners’ right to vote.

Apparently their justification for the stupid law change was that people who're serving a jail sentence had somehow breached their social contract FFS!

Despite a clear majority of submissions against the law change and legal advice that said such a change was highly questionable under section 7 of the Bill of Rights Act 1990, the government brought the law into effect anyway.

It’s little wonder then that National putting an end to prisoner’s voting has also been found wanting by the Court of Appeal.

Today, The NZ Herald reported:

Court upholds ruling on 'inconsistent' prisoner voting ban

A decision labelling a ban on prisoners voting a human rights breach has been upheld in the Court of Appeal.

Parliament passed a law to prevent all prisoners from voting in 2010. Previously, only those jailed for more than three years were unable to vote.

Long-time prisoner Arthur Taylor and four others successfully sought a High Court "Declaration of Inconsistency" in 2015, saying extending the ban to all prisoners infringed the right to vote in the Bill of Rights Act.

The Crown then asked the Court of Appeal to overturn that declaration, but in a judgment released today, the appeal was dismissed.

Once again the National led government is wasting public money and precious court resources fighting against the law instead of just doing what’s right.

The declaration alone does not mean Parliament must repeal the ban - the High Court previously noted that even where it finds Parliament has placed unjustified limits on rights, it still has to apply that law.

In that decision, Justice Paul Heath said the purpose of the declaration was to send a formal message that the law was "inconsistent with a fundamental right".

OMG! Finally the Court of Appeal gets something right. Read the full decision here (PDF).

It’s not just a fundamental right that prisoners be allowed to vote, it’s also a legal right that would be beneficial to our democratic process in general. The Bill of Rights is a legally binding act after all.

People in prison are already isolated away from family and society. By taking away their right to vote the Crown is effectively further isolating prisoners and ensuring many don’t give a damn about what’s happening in the real world.

By isolating prisoners away from politics the government is assuring more releasees won’t care about who’s in power and simply fail to participate in local and general elections. This dynamic is assuredly contributing to our very low voter turnout in New Zealand.

It’s doubtful such considerations or Court of Appeal decisions will change the never-ending political fantasy that tough on crime policy is going to make New Zealand a better place though.

Consecutive governments are clearly ideologically blinded by their own lock em up and throw away the key rhetoric… and I’m sure this election campaign will be no bloody different.