A few days ago Justice Minister Andrew Little announced plans to change the current law on prisoner voting rights in time for the 2020 election, to allow prisoners serving sentences of three years or under to vote. This change comes after a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in Taylor v Attorney-General, where Arthur Taylor, a high-profile prisoner, sued the Attorney General, arguing the ban went against their voting rights under the Bill Of Rights. The Supreme Court agreed and issued a declaration saying the law was inconsistent with New Zealand’s Bill of Rights. However, they could not act to strike down the law as it was correctly passed by Parliament. Following this 2018 decision and a recent decision by the Waitangi Tribunal finding the legislation also at odds with the Treaty of Waitangi, Parliament has finally announced they will act, granting voting rights back to prisoners serving sentences of three years or under. Deb Rawson discusses this shift in policy with Edward Willis.
Edward Willis is a Law Lecturer at the University of Auckland. He is an expert in public law and constitutional theory.