Change is long overdue: Prisoners must be allowed to vote
MEDIA RELEASE: 12 August 2019
WELLINGTON HOWARD LEAGUE FOR PENAL REFORM
Today's release of the Waitangi Tribunal's lastest report, He Aha i Pērā Ai, is an important and resounding affirmation of the need for the Electoral Act to be changed to allow all prisoners a right to vote. Following significant attention given to prisoner voting in recent times, including last year's Supreme Court ruling that section 80(1)(d) is inconsistent with the NZ Bill of Rights Act, the Waitangi Tribunal has also recommended that "the legislation is amended urgently to remove the dis¬qualification of all prisoners from voting, irrespective of their sentence."
The Wellington Howard League endorses and fully supports the Tribunal's findings and recommendations.
"Denying Māori prisoners the vote has denied their tino rangatiratanga and this needs to be rectified." Christine McCarthy, President, Wellington Howard League said. "Significantly, the Tribunal has also clearly stated that a return to the law as it was before 15 December 2010 is inappropriate "because even that law disproportionately affected Māori.""
"Voting is a fundamental human right and prisoners should not be denied this." McCarthy continued. "The Tribunal's finding of the disproportionate impact on Māori of disenfranchising prisoners is not surprising given the well-known existence of systemic racism throughout the criminal justice system in New Zealand. The Tribunal's recommendations are hugely important. Repealing section 80(1)(d) is long overdue and this report gives government yet another indication that the time for change is here."
The Wellington Howard League initiated a parliamentary petition earlier this year asking Parliament to "repeal section 80(1)(d) of the Electoral Act 1993 to enable all New Zealand prisoners to be eligible to vote in New Zealand elections." Over 2,000 people signed the petition - more than half of them were prisoners.