The National Party will oppose any moves in Parliament to grant voting rights to prisoners.

This is despite a scathing Waitangi Tribunal report, released today, that said a 2010 ban on prisoners voting had disproportionately hurt Māori and breached the Crown's Treaty of Waitangi obligations.

A bill was passed in 2010 that banned all prisoners from enrolling to vote, whereas previously prisoners serving sentences less than three years were allowed to enrol.

It passed under the previous Government with the support of National and Act.

Advertisement

Justice Minister Andrew Little said the tribunal's report, as well as a Supreme Court decision that said the 2010 law breached the Bill of Rights Act, made a compelling case and the issue would be considered by Cabinet in the coming weeks.

A law change may hinge on New Zealand First's position, as Labour voted against the 2010 bill and the Green Party supports prisoner voting.

Bridges said that National would oppose any law change.

"Ultimately this isn't a legal question. It's one of values. Parliament is supreme and gets to work out its values in law.

"We will oppose change. National believes that if the crime is serious enough for someone to go to jail and lose their liberty, they should also, while in jail, lose the right to vote."

The tribunal report found that the 2010 law breached the Crown's obligations under the Treaty on multiple fronts:

• Crown advice on the bill failed to look into how the ban would affect Māori.

• The disproportionate affect of the law on Māori breached the Crown's duty to protect their interests.

Advertisement

• The high likelihood that Māori released from prison would not re-enrol to vote is shows a lack of duty to protect Māori interests.

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

The tribunal questioned the point of the 2010 law in the first place, nothing that this wasn't even addressed in the parliamentary debates at the time.

Bridges said that National understood the importance of prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration, but that could be done without granting prisoners the right to vote.

He said it was not hard for prisoners to re-enrol after being released from prison.

"I don't accept that the process generally of enrolling and re-enrolling is too difficult. It's literally a form that is not complicated to fill out."

National's support is not needed if the Government wanted to pass a law granting prisoners the right to vote.

But New Zealand First's support would be needed.

NZ First leader Winston Peters, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, said he had a personal view on the issue, but did not want to divulge that until after Cabinet and the party caucus had had time to consider the issue.

Little said it was unfair to assume NZ First would be against granting prisoners the right to vote, noting the party was not in Parliament in 2010 when the bill passed.

Labour MPs were strongly opposed to the 2010 bill when it was passed, and the Green Party support overturning the prisoner voting ban.

Green Party justice spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman plans to put up an amendment to the Electoral Amendment bill currently before the Parliament to allow prisoners to enrol.

"The Supreme Court, and now the Waitangi Tribunal, has confirmed that denying these New Zealanders the ability to cast their vote on Election Day is an unacceptable breach of their fundamental rights."