The Green Party has today put forward an amendment to the Electoral (Registration of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill to ensure all people in prisons can vote in general elections.
“The Bill in its current form seeks to extend voting for people in prison serving sentences for fewer than three years, in part adopting my Strengthening Democracy Bill, whilst also ensuring all prisoners are re-enrolled to vote whilst being released,” Green Party Justice spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said today.
“Whilst this is a great first step, it still means that a large number of people we hold in our prisons don’t have the basic human right of casting a vote during election, which our Supreme Court agrees is a serious breach.
“Prisoners are already carrying out their punishment by being in prison. Denying them basic human rights to access democracy only serves to further ostracise them from their community and weakens the integrity of our justice system. This is the same community that we ultimately want to positively reengage after their release.
“Our Government now accepts that our prison system disproportionately targets Māori and other communities of colour, so this breach is also a serious race equity issue which we know has caused serious unrest internationally and here in New Zealand.
“Considering our proud history fighting for the universal suffrage, I think many would be shocked to hear that New Zealand is among the minority of modern democracies that deprives certain groups, in this case predominantly Māori, from the basic right to vote.
“New Zealand should be a place where no matter your circumstances you have a right to cast a vote. Let’s make sure that our basic human rights apply to us all, without arbitrary moral divides.”