14 Sep 2017

Protest over prison voting ban

2:06 pm on 14 September 2017

A law that will deny 7000 prisoners the vote in this year's election is a breach of human rights, protesters say.

Opponents to the ban protested outside National MP Nikki Kaye's office

Opponents to the ban protested outside National MP Nikki Kaye's office Photo: Supplied / Emily Parr

Protestors gathered outside National MP Nikki Kaye's electoral office in Auckland calling for a blanket ban on sentenced prisoners voting to be removed.

Since 2010, all people serving a jail term at the time of the election have been unable to vote. This year roughly 7000 people will be unable to cast a ballot.

There have been varying restrictions around prisoners' voting since New Zealand's first election in 1853.

People Against Prisons Aotearoa (PAPA) spokesperson Emilie Rākete said true democracy required full participation.

"That includes people in prison, that includes people who are in gangs, that includes people who maybe aren't very nice, but they are a part of this country and they have a right to take part in the democratic process - everyone."

The law has survived several court challenges to overturn it, because its process through Parliament was legal.

However, the High Court made a declaration in 2015 that the law was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.

That ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal and is now due to be argued in front of the Supreme Court.

Ms Rākete said the law was a breach of prisoners' human rights.

"It's not technically racist to remove the vote from prisoners who are overwhelmingly Māori, because Pākehā prisoners also have the right to vote taken off of them," she said.

"ut when prisons are disproportionately Māori, and all prisoners have the right to vote taken off of them, then overwhelmingly it is Māori who are having the right to vote taken off of them. No matter how you cut that, that is a racist policy. That needs to change."

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