BIG NEWS

Monday, September 20, 2010

Oh dear

The Law and Order Select Committee has reported on Paul Quinn’s bill, which aimed to prevent prisoners from voting. Currently prisoners can vote provided they have been sentenced to a term less than three years. Quinn writes on his Facebook page.
My Private Members Bill was reported back from the Select Committee on Friday with a recommendation supporting the removal of the right to vote from all persons serving a custodial sentence. Looking forward to next steps in the process
The next step in the process will no doubt be a supplementary order paper to undo the previous step in the process because the Law and Order Select Committee, while actually recommending the bill be passed so that all prisoners will be disqualified as registering as electors, amended the bill to do the opposite, as Andrew Geddis helpfully points out.

It actually proposed a change to the law to allow all current prisoners to enrol to vote and therefore cast a vote at the next election – including Clayton Weatherston and Graeme Burton.

The committee - which Geddis describes as "dumb" - suggests completely repealing the current disqualification provision in the Electoral Act 1993, s.80 (1) d and replacing it with this provision:
“a person who is detained in a prison pursuant to a sentence of imprisonment imposed after the commencement of the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced 15 Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010:”
This means that, as Geddis points out,there would be nothing in law to stop anyone imprisoned at the time the bill is enacted from applying to be registered to vote, and consequently casting a vote at the 2011 election – the very opposite of what Quinn intended.

Section 80(1)d of the Electoral Act 1993 should be etched in the memory of the members of this select committee for a very long time. Perhaps this should have gone to the select committee that looks at electoral laws.

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