Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Let them vote

A side effect of the pandemic and resulting closed borders: tens of thousands of overseas kiwis could lose the right to vote:

Currently, New Zealanders who are overseas must have visited the country once within the last three years to be allowed to vote - or once in the last 12 months for non-citizen residents. Those who fall outside that threshold lose the right to vote in that election.

With entry to New Zealand currently restricted by the clogged MIQ system, many New Zealanders overseas will lose the right to vote at the next election, unless the law is changed to be more flexible or New Zealand's border becomes significantly more open by 2023.

That currently appears unlikely, with the Government only committing to a gradual reopening of the borders, which is unlikely be normal by 2023 - or 2022, when local body elections are scheduled.

This is easy to fix: change two numbers in s80(1) of the Electoral Act. Doing so seems entirely reasonable, and its arguably something they need to do anyway: Canada's Supreme Court threw out that country's time-limit on non-residents voting in 2019, and a case taken in New Zealand is likely to have the same result (or rather, result in a declaration of inconsistency and intense pressure on Parliament to listen to the courts). The question is, will Labour do it? Or will they make a nakedly political calculation that overseas kiwis are now unlikely to vote for them thanks to MIQ, and refuse?