To: Andrew Little, Justice Minister
Right to Vote for All
Dear Hon. Andrew Little,
We are calling on the Government to enshrine voting rights for all people who are incarcerated.
In 2010 National MP Paul Quinn introduced a Member’s Bill to Parliament that saw the complete removal of voting rights for prisoners, regardless of how long the sentence. Since then, the Supreme Court has upheld the High Court’s ruling that limiting the right to vote for prisoners is a breach of the Bill of Rights, section 12(a).
Voting must belong to all of us for the health of our democracy, and removing basic rights should never be used as a means to punish people. We are proud of Aotearoa New Zealand’s history - where people have successfully campaigned for the right to vote for all Māori and women. That legacy should not be thrown away lightly.
That's why we are calling on the Government to amend the Electoral Act of 1993 and ensure that all New Zealanders are able to determine who represents them, and who makes the laws that govern them.
Why is this important?
We believe that in a fair and democratic society all members should have the right to vote, and people living in prisons are part of our society. They are valued members of communities and families. To take away their right to vote is an unfair disenfranchisement
We all expect that people in prison have the opportunity to heal and learn so they can contribute to a thriving society when they return to their communities. By not allowing people to vote while in prison, we are removing their ability to invest in and contribute to society and our democratic process. It's cruel and counter-productive.
When Parliament changed the law in 2010 they used voting rights as a form of punishment, and this breaches the Bill of Rights. As New Zealanders we seek fairness and community. If we reinstate voting rights for people serving time in prison, it means that come next election time, thousands more people would be able to participate in our democracy, and put their ballot in the box as an investment in their - and our - futures.
We believe a thriving society requires the voices of all it's people in order to make decisions that elevate everyone. By including everyone's voices we can have a truly representative democracy.