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Bill to stop prisoners voting passes first reading

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Paul Quinn
Paul Quinn

Wellington, April 21 NZPA - A bill to ban anyone in prison from voting in a general election passed its first reading in Parliament today.

Under current law prisoners serving a sentence of three years or more can't vote but National MP Paul Quinn, who drafted the member's bill, believes no one in prison on election day should be able to.

When the first reading debate on the bill began last month he argued that anyone serving a sentence, even if they were in prison for one day, had broken the law and should lose the right to vote.

When the debate resumed today, Labour MP Lianne Dalziel said her party would oppose the bill.

She said it would return the position to what it was before a law change in 1993 -- under a National government -- implemented the recommendation of a Royal Commission.

She said that under Mr Quinn's bill it would be "just a matter of timing" and people who had committed serious offences but were not actually in prison on election day would be able to vote.

"I don't think any person should sit in this Parliament who doesn't think it is a duty to vote, as opposed to merely a right, because I think a duty is far stronger than a right," she said.

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira said the bill amounted to a second punishment.

"What is the motive for targeting people who are already alienated and isolated, except to punish prove how nasty and vicious society can be, to show we don't care about those who have fallen by the wayside."

National MPs backed the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill and it passed its first reading on a vote of 63-59. It has been sent to the law and order select committee for public submissions.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson last month presented an adverse report on the bill, saying it appeared to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act on the grounds that what it proposed was not proportionate to offences and sentences.

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