Everyone should be able to vote

by Jake Quinn

National MP Paul Quinn’s Members Bill, The Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill, has been drawn from the ballot.  This is a bad Bill, which should, but won’t, be voted down.

The Bill seeks to remove the right to vote from the 80-90% of prisoners who are serving sentences of less than three years (current law already blocks prisoners serving more than three years from voting).  The Bill was put there with National’s blessing and would no doubt  receive Act Party support, thus giving it a majority.

This is populist piece of legislation, another ‘do nothing’ piece of legislation, that helps to create an impression that National is tough on crime and criminals, which, for some strange and completely illogical reason, is a hugely awesome way to be in western countries and particularly New Zealand.

We are talking here about around 8000 people that could be effected by this legislation, which is about the same number of people who at the last election voted for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party.  In the last election National received 256,518 more party votes than Labour, yes… a quarter of a million.

What I’m getting at is, unlike what some might say, this amount of people is rather unlikely to have any substantive effect on the outcome of an election (assuming they all voted one way, which they wouldn’t).

So, opposing this legislation, as I would hope all parties of the Left would do (on human rights grounds), is NOT about “protecting votes” (on the logic that prisoners who are more often, young, poor and brown, are more likely to vote for parties of the left), but about recognizing that protecting the universal franchise is an important thing to do.

There was a time in this country when only single-title land owning men could vote (thus omitting most Māori men from the privilege).  There was a time when women could not vote.  We’ve fought quite hard to get people the vote, lets not take it away, from anyone.

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