Jailed bush lawyer asks High Court for right to vote

A well-known prison inmate and bush lawyer has appeared in court again, this time on a video screen, to fight for the right to vote in the election next week.

Prisoner tells High Court law banning prisoners from voting is illegal. Source: 1 NEWS

From behind bars, Arthur Taylor took his fight to the High Court in Auckland today.

It's been many years since Taylor was allowed a say in who governs New Zealand, a country he says is now on the wrong side of history.

"Its now one of the only countries in the Western world that is denying all prisoners the vote," he told the court via video link as he sat at a desk wearing an orange prison jacket

What do you think? Comment on the ONE News Facebook page here.

The career criminal and jailhouse lawyer has been stuck inside our maximum security prison, Paremoremo, for 10 years and unless he's granted parole before his 2022 release date, he's likely to miss a few more elections, unless the law is changed.

Until 2010, only prisoners sentenced to less than three years were allowed to vote. But the law changed and there's now a blanket ban on all prisoners voting.

Our own Attorney-General has decided that's inconsistent with the Bill of Rights and he has the backing of the Human Rights Commission and the New Zealand Law Society.

Most of today's argument centred around whether that law change was legal. Taylor says Parliament needed a 75% majority vote to pass the new law.

"Every other party in Parliament voted against this legislation, even Peter Dunne did. The only ones that supported it were National and Act, by a two seat majority I understand," he said.

The Crown says that argument is flawed and Taylor's argument was invalid.

Five other inmates were represented by Richard Francois, a lawyer who argued the the high proportion of Maori prisoners meant up to 5,000 voters are missing from the Maori roll, which has a direct effect on the number and boundaries of the Maori electorates.

He said that's because the law says "we're going to punish every prisoner, no matter what their sentence. If you can go in for one week and if it's the week of an election you can't vote. It's too punitive.

Our close neighbours Australia allow anyone sentenced to less than three years jail to vote.

In Canada all prisoners can vote, but in the United States only two states let inmates have their political say. Remand prisoners in the United Kingdom can vote but the European Court has ruled the country's blanket ban against other prisoners infringes human rights law.

Justice Ellis says she'll make a decision on the case by Friday. 

But with election day on Saturday-week looming, Taylor suggested if her findings are in his favour, prisoners could enroll as special voters this time around.