A new ruling on the ban on prisoner voting delivers a fierce reminder of the need for urgent change. Now it’s over to the government: put up or shut up, writes Andrew Geddis.
In some ways, it tells us nothing we didn’t already know: the legislative ban on prisoners voting enacted in 2010 by National and Act Party MPs is a terrible law that shouldn’t ever have been passed. But in laying out how poorly conceived this law was and just how negatively it affects Māori in particular, He Aha Perā Ai? The Māori Prisoners’ Voting Report, which has just been released by the Waitangi Tribunal, presents us with a fierce reminder of the need for change.
The tribunal’s report makes (at least) four important findings. First of all, the government’s complete failure to pay any real attention to how a ban on prisoner voting would affect Māori (because of shameful overrepresentation in the prison system) breached the crown’s duty to be fully informed as a treaty partner. By the end of the tribunal hearing the crown gave up even trying to argue to the contrary; it accepted the way the legislation was created and enacted failed to consider the treaty implications of the change at any point.