Friday, July 24, 2015

New Zealand High Court Declares Blanket Ban on Prisoners Voting Contravenes Bill of Rights

The highest court in the land of the long white cloud, the New Zealand High Court, declared that a ban on all prisoners voting was inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. Introduced in 2010 amid controversy, the ban disenfranchises all prisoners for the duration of their prison terms. However, once a prisoner is released, no matter what the crime, voting rights are reinstated. Before 2010, only prisoners serving terms over three years were disenfranchised, and only for the duration of their prison terms.

New Zealand does not have a written constitution and the Bill of Rights Act is an ordinary statute, so the High Court's declaration has no immediate or binding legal effect. Nonetheless, the declaration may pressure the governing National Party to reconsider the law. Here in the United States, perhaps this decision should make us once again pause for thought about the propriety of denying felons the right to vote after they have served their time.

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