Kiwis overseas must be allowed to vote next year

New Zealanders stranded overseas should be allowed to vote in next year’s local government elections and the 2023 general election, the Green Party said today.

“The reality of this pandemic is lots of people cannot renew their voting rights when they are home as they normally would. The Government must extend the three-year timeframe so New Zealanders can still exercise their democratic rights,” Green Party electoral reform spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said.

“The limit imposed by our law has always favoured those with the financial means to come home most often. For families with young children or young New Zealanders studying overseas, these rules can result in them being excluded from voting because they cannot afford to travel as often. COVID has redoubled this avoidable inequity.”

“Canadians and Americans abroad keep their voting rights forever, and British citizens can spend 15 years away before they lose the right to vote. But a three-year limit here means that even in normal times New Zealand is not in line with other countries, let alone when global travel is severely impacted by the pandemic.

“Many New Zealanders may be surprised to learn that their friends and family overseas could be prevented from having a say in how their home country is run. Disenfranchising those stuck overseas, through no fault of their own, is incompatible with a country that takes pride in having a Bill of Rights Act, and values highly a fair and equitable access to democracy.

“The Government is reviewing voting rules right now, and it must take this opportunity to ensure overseas New Zealanders can vote in our upcoming elections, particularly when issues as important as the climate crisis, housing affordability, and biodiversity will be on people’s minds.”

ENDS

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