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Ed Sheeran

Vote ban extra blow for Māori

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A justice reform advocate says denying prisoners the right to vote is an ongoing breach of their human rights and is a particular attack on Māori.

In a split decision last month the Supreme Court ruled the law change pushed by the Act Party on 2010 breached New Zealand’s human rights obligations, but parliament had the right to pass the bill.

Julia Whaipooti, a board member of Just Speak, says for prisoners the removal of their liberty is the punishment, and taking away their right to vote serves no useful purpose.

It adds to their disengagement with the community, which is counter to the idea of rehabilitation.

The disproportional number of Māori on the prison muster makes it a treaty issue, especially as it can affect their behaviour after they are released.

"Knowing that it affects Maori the most is something we should be concerned about because we have a problem with engaging with Māori voting already. Our numbers are quitelow and this is another tool that disengages Māori from voting," Ms Whaipooti says.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has been asked to look at the issue, and prison reform groups are petitioning parliament to reverse the change.

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