The Supreme Court says a blanket ban on prisoners voting was lawful. The court has today dismissed an appeal brought by jailhouse lawyer Arthur William Taylor asking them to declare a decision to ban all prisoners from voting was invalid. Taylor and the other appellants, represented by lawyer Richard Francois, have battled through the High Court, Court of Appeal and now the Supreme Court for a declaration that Parliament was wrong to impose a blanket ban on prisoners voting. But while the High Court agreed the ban was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act, it did not declare the ban invalid. That decision has now been backed by New Zealand’s highest court. Taylor argued the ban, brought about in the Amendment Act 2010, was invalid because a supermajority of 75 per cent of all the members of the House of Representatives was required to pass the amendment, which did not happen.
He said section 269 of the Electoral Act 1993 entrenched prisoner voting rights, which was why a supermajority was required to amend it.
But all three courts have agreed the entrenchment only extended to the minimum voting age.
Prior to the 2010 Amendment, prisoners serving life sentences, preventive detention or jail terms of three years or more were already disqualified from voting. The amendment extended this disqualification to all serving prisoners.