Court says prisoner voting ban breaches the Bill of Rights Act

Stuff reports:

A ban on prisoners voting has been ruled inconsistent with the Bill of Rights, in a declaration from the courts that is the first of its kind.

Prisoner Arthur Taylor is one of a group of five serving prisoners who argued that the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 was inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Under the amended act, all people in prison on election day are unable to vote.

Taylor lost a High Court bid in September last year which would have allowed him to vote in the general election. 

On Friday, Justice Paul Heath formally declared the ban to be inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, which all laws should be in line with. 

The declaration from the High Court was the first of its kind. It sends a formal message to Parliament that the law it passed was indefensible as it limited individual rights without reasonable justification. 

This is not a big surprise, as the Attorney-General said much the same thing when the law change was being considered.

I’m of the view that the previous ban on prisoners sentenced to more than three years was arbitrary and unprincipled.

I believe either all prisoners should be able to vote, or no prisoners should be able to vote. And I’m not overly keen on giving Clayton Weatherston a vote I have to say.

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