Prisoner voting in Key’s backyard

Last year, I wrote a blog on the High Court’s ruling about whether prisoners should be allowed to vote.

The matter has come up again with Arthur Taylor having launched a case against John Key’s election in the Helensville electorate. Taylor is arguing that the results were invalid because 650 prisoners in Paremoremo Prison were excluded from voting in the electorate.

The matter is before the Court and initial reports indicate that Taylor is arguing the principle and Key’s lawyers are arguing the result. In other words, Key’s lawyers are arguing that whether prisoners have the right to vote or not doesn’t matter because the votes of the 650 prisoners would not have affected the outcome of the electorate vote.

As I have stated in the past, the issue of prisoners voting is a human rights issue at the core of it. The National Government passed a fundamentally flawed bill when the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act was passed. A person in jail is already doing their time; to take away another fundamental right is an extra punishment.

Even the New Zealand High Court has held that this amendment is “constitutionally objectionable” but because Parliament is supreme, the courts are not able to intervene.

Further, we are tarnishing our reputation on the world stage. Under Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and section 12 (a) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA), we need to ensure that all New Zealanders are able to take part in free and equal elections.

Jail should be an opportunity for rehabilitation and reintegration. By further marginalising prisoners from society, we are not doing them, or us, any favours.

National has an opportunity to set right the wrongs done in previous years, here is hoping they take it!