My good friend Andrew Geddis has delivered a devastating critique of the thoroughly misguided private members bill in the name of Paul Quinn to deny all prisoners a vote (as opposed to the current situation where those sentenced to three years or less can still vote). I have blogged about this before, and the bill was bad enough before it went to the Law and Order Select Committee. Now, amazingly the Bill has emerged from the Committee even worse than when it went in. I should note at the outset that Labour and the Greens are opposing the Bill, and have a minority report to that end.
Andrew is a level headed guy (and in the interests of fairness I should note he has expressed strong opposition to the earthquake legislation) who is not prone to hyperbole. So this paragraph should grab the attention
This proposal is downright wrong in its intent, outright stupid in its design and (if finally enacted) would be such an indelible stain on the parliamentary lawmaking process as to call into question that institution’s legitimacy to act as supreme lawmaker for our society.
As Andrew notes the Bill is against the advice of the Attorney General, and goes against decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee and courts in Canada, South Africa and Australia. It is a silly, hopeless piece of law that will do nothing to make New Zealand safer, and has the potential to make reintegration and rehabilitation more difficult.
But, amazingly, the National and ACT members of the Select Committee have combined to make the law worse. Andrew points out in his article that they are proposing to repeal the current legislative provisions regarding disqualification from voting and replace it with the following wording
“a person who is detained in a prison pursuant to a sentence of imprisonment imposed after the commencement of the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced 15 Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010:”
The effect of the repeal and a new clause only dealing with those imprisoned after the new law comes into force would seem to be that someone who is currently serving a term in prison of longer than three years (say Graeme Burton) could register to vote. I am sure National will now change this, but it really does typify what is a ridiculous bill.
There must be some in the National caucus who oppose this nonsense. Perhaps they should allow themselves a conscience vote and join Labour and the Greens in voting down this silliness?