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Prisoners and the right to vote

Date: 27th January 2015

Media Advisory:
Prisoners and the right to vote


Arthur Taylor and other serving prisoners, will take their case to end a ban on prisoners voting to the High Court in Auckland today (27 Jan 2015)
http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/264583/prisoner-voting-case-in-high-court

The human rights issues

Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity...without unreasonable restrictions...to vote...at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors” (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 25)
• “Persons deprived of their liberty enjoy all the rights set forth in the Covenant, subject to the restrictions that are unavoidable in a closed environment” (Human Rights Committee. (1992). General comment No. 21: Article 10 (Humane treatment of persons deprived of their liberty). (Fortyfourth session). para 3.
• “Every New Zealand citizen who is of or over the age of 18 years...has the right to vote in genuine periodic elections of members of the House of Representatives, which elections shall be by equal suffrage and by secret ballot” (New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, s12(a))
• “the rights and freedoms contained in this Bill of Rights may be subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society” (New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, s5)

The faulty logic

• Offenders are imprisoned because they have failed to respect the rights of others and meet their responsibilities as citizens.
• One of the key purposes of the Corrections Act is “to improve public safety and contribute to the maintenance of a just society by...assisting in the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community” (Corrections Act 2004, s5(1)(c))
• It is reasonable to assume that rehabilitation and reintegration is assisted by prisoners being encouraged to think of the wider community and, as part of this, being able to vote -- a civic duty as much as a human right.

For a background on the case, see Justice Ellis’ 2014 High Court judgement
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ecmLy_X0rSQ1NiaXFwUno2bUE/view?usp=sharing

-- Ced Simpson, Robson Hanan Trust, 27 Jan 2015

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