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Ed Sheeran

Prison vote ban breached treaty

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The Waitangi Tribunal has found a law change that took the vote away from prisoners breaches the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

In its He aha i pērā ai? The Māori Prisoners' voting rights report released today it says section 80(1)(d) of the Electoral Act 1993 has resulted in significant prejudice to Māori.

Looking at the advice given to the law and order select committee considering the 2010 amendment, it found officials failed to provide sufficient information about the specific effect the legislation would have on Māori and Crown rights and obligations under the Treaty.

One of the consequences of the section was an increase in the already disproportionate removal of Māori from the electoral roll.

In 2010, Māori were 2.1 times more likely to have been removed from the electoral roll than non-Māori. In 2018, the number was 11.4 times more likely.

They're likely to stay off the roll, because the crown does nothing to help or encourage prisoners to reenrol once they are released.

The tribunal recommended the legislation is amended urgently to remove the disqualification of all prisoners from voting, irrespective of sentence; and that the Crown start a process immediately to enable and encourage all sentenced prisoners and all released prisoners to be enrolled in time for the next general election in 2020.

It also wants to see a process to ensure Crown officials provide properly informed advice on the likely impact that any Bill, including members' Bills, will have on the Crown's Treaty of Waitangi obligations.

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