News of Zealand

The Greens Are Fighting to Give Kiwi Prisoners the Right To Vote

"Voting during elections would engage them in society and mean they are exercising a fundamental human right," says the party.

by Zoe Madden-Smith
03 March 2019, 9:37pm

Auckland's Mount Eden Correctional Facility. Image via Shutterstock.

The Green Party is pushing for a bill that would allow prisoners the right to vote. Currently, in New Zealand, no prisoners can even register to vote, which is a policy the New Zealand Supreme Court says is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.

The majority of countries in the OECD allow prisoners to vote, but some of New Zealand's closest allies stand by prisoner disenfranchisement. The United Kingdom has a blanket ban on prisoners voting; other than Maine and Vermont, all US states prohibit prisoners from voting; Australia only lets prisoners vote if their sentence is less than three years.

The proposal is part of the Electoral Strengthening Democracy member's bill that is being put forward by Green Party spokesperson for electoral reform, Golriz Ghahraman. She says the exclusion of prisoners from Aotearoa’s voting system is alienating, makes rehabilitation harder, and weakens our democracy.

"My key concern, as was the key concern for the Supreme Court, was that in our system of justice we cut people off from fundamental human rights as punishment for crimes," Ghahraman said. "Voting during elections would engage them in society and mean they are exercising a fundamental human right—the right to cast a vote."

The bill also aims to allow Māori voters to change roll type at any time, not just during the Māori Electoral Option, once every five years. It also wants to strengthen transparency and safeguards on donations to parties and candidates, abolish the coat-tails rule and reduce the MMP threshold to four percent, to make it easier for small parties to win seats.