Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Repealing the prisoner voting ban

Last year, the government bowed to the supreme Court, and promised that it would restore (some) prisoner voting rights. Yesterday, it finally introduced the bill to do so: the Electoral (Registration of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill. As promised, the bill restores the status quo before National's execrable (and unconstitutional) member's bill, allowing prisoners serving sentences of less than three years to vote. However, it goes a little further, imposing positive legal duties on prison managers to assist with re-enrolment. It also makes a slight change to the unpublished roll rules to allow any former prisoner on to it in order to reduce barriers to re-enrolment.

These are all good changes, but because the government has dragged its feet on this, it is going to have to rush the process if it wants to get it passed before the election as promised. And of course there's always the risk of NZ First throwing a spanner in the works. And if that happens, it will be a further example of Parliament's failure to protect our human rights, and why we need to grant the courts explicit power to do so, by overturning BORA-inconsistent legislation.