Golriz Ghahraman urges Justice Minister to scrap prisoner voting ban

The Green Party are urging Justice Minister Andrew Little to take action over the prisoner voting ban, after the Supreme Court upheld the decision that found it was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights. 

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Golriz Ghahraman brought up the Justice Minister’s own quotes that said the ban needed to be changed. Source: 1 NEWS

Green Party justice spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said the ban "undermines democracy and removes fundamental rights" and it excluded prisoners from a process that engages them in society, "making rehabilitation harder". 

"This would be a simple change that would engage people in prison more in their community, incarceration should not exempt you from the democratic process.

In Parliament's Question Time today, Ms Ghahraman used past quotes from MPs across the House while asking if the ban would be lifted. 

Police Minister Stuart Nash, who was answering on behalf of Mr Little, said "the Government is committed to reforming the criminal justice system, and this takes priority for now". 

"Does the Minister agree with his own 2014 statement on people in prison voting, 'The current law, in our view is wrong, and it needs to be changed, and we will change it'," Ms Ghahraman asked. 

"On behalf of the Minister," Mr Nash said, "Of course I agree with statements I have made; however, speaking as a Minister, this Government has not had a discussion around this issue and therefore does not have a position."

Ms Ghahraman also used quotes from the 2014 NZ First justice spokesperson Denis O'Rourke and National Party MP Harete Hipango, and asked again if the ban would be lifted. 

"This Government is committed to broader criminal justice reform," Mr Nash said. 

Earlier this month, Mr Little said they are looking at a Parliamentary remedy which would respond to future rulings of inconsistencies within the Bill of Rights. 

It comes after a High Court ruling found National's 2010 amendment to the Electoral Act, disenfranchising prisoners, did breach the Bill of Rights. This was appealed to the Supreme Court. 

The Supreme Court upheld the High Court's findings. It stated that courts do have the power to rule laws inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act. 

It found the ban on prisoner voting was an example of such a breach.