A steady stream of rebuttals and discourse carried over the virtual halls of the online Justice Committee today as members debated the controversial clause seven of the New Zealand Future Bill.
The clause, if passed in its current form, would serve to cement both the right to vote of prisoners and of people over eighteen while compelling all eligible citizens of New Zealand to vote in either the general or Māori electorates every election.
Both the Labour and Green parties provided strong support for section one of the clause: “Being imprisoned cannot be considered a disqualification for the eligibility to vote in a general election”, with Green MP Jacob Stephenson arguing that you do not become inhuman when you commit a crime. Labour MP Zoe Dzapasi supported this, commenting that “we cannot continue to expect non-prisoners to altruistically look out for the interests and concerns of current prisoners.”
These comments were in response to National MP, Ciara Staines-Hurley arguing that serious offenders should be punished with more than jail time and that the loss of voting rights is a strong system to enforce the law.
In a rare move, the Green party broke ranks with Labour to side with the National and ACT parties in discussion over striking section three of the clause: “All eligible members of the general and Māori rolls must vote in every general election they are eligible to vote in.” The party’s co-leader, Rosie Mackenzie commented that the bill would go against the Iwi by forcing their members to take part in a ‘western system’.
When asked for comment on the session, Mackenzie said: “...I am not confident in the safety and security of these online systems, however, I appreciate this is a topic of ongoing discussion in the Green party, and it will be discussed in full in due course.”