The Government won't say whether it will change the law to prevent tens of thousands of Kiwis losing the right to vote at the next election.
Currently, New Zealanders who are overseas must have visited the country once within the last three years to be allowed to vote - or once in the last 12 months for non-citizen residents. Those who fall outside that threshold lose the right to vote in that election.
With entry to New Zealand currently restricted by the clogged MIQ system, many New Zealanders overseas will lose the right to vote at the next election, unless the law is changed to be more flexible or New Zealand's border becomes significantly more open by 2023.
That currently appears unlikely, with the Government only committing to a gradual reopening of the borders, which is unlikely be normal by 2023 - or 2022, when local body elections are scheduled.
If the law is not changed, it would be the largest disenfranchisement of voters in recent times - potentially exceeding the 2010 decision to strip prisoners of voting rights.
Around a million New Zealanders live overseas. All are eligible to vote if they visit New Zealand within the appropriate timeframe.
The number of people who actually do vote from overseas is far smaller - it has been just over 60,000 in the previous two elections.
The Greens had been pushing for the Government to take action on overseas voting before the 2020 election.
Justice spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said it was "quite disappointing that they haven't already undertaken that work, given how front of mind it was at the very beginning".
She has written to Justice Minister Kris Faafoi asking for the three years to be doubled to six as an emergency measure.
Gharaman said she also disagrees with the three-year rule more generally.
"It prioritises New Zealanders who have the financial means to get home regularly," she said.
Faafoi said the current rules aimed to "strike a balance".
"New Zealanders choose to live overseas for a variety of reasons, but I understand this does not mean they lose interest in the issues that affect their friends and loved ones who are still living here," Faafoi said.
"The three-year qualification threshold aims to strike a balance between this ongoing interest and the value New Zealanders place on being present to maintain decision-making power over our society," he said.
Faafoi suggested a change could be on the cards if a parliamentary inquiry into the 2020 election recommends it.
"I recognise that the pandemic has been particularly disruptive to international travel over an extended period of time," Faafoi said.
"This issue has been raised in submissions to the Justice Committee's current Inquiry into the 2020 election and referendums. I look forward to receiving the committee's recommendations on this matter, and the Government will consider its response to the committee's report in due course," he said.
Labour has a strong majority on the justice select committee, which is conducting the inquiry, so it is unlikely that its final report will say anything that is too awkward for the Government.
Submissions to the inquiry raised concerns about a mass disenfranchising of overseas New Zealanders.
Submitter Simon Wood raised the fact that the American, Canadian and British systems were far more humane. The US extends the vote to all citizens, regardless of when they last visited the country, all Canadians can vote if they have lived in the country during their lifetimes while the UK allows its citizens to vote if they have returned home within the last 15 years.
"With immigration becoming more commonplace, and the isolation of New Zealand making it hard for all overseas citizens to return once every three years, it's time to review and extend this window," Wood said.
Another submitter, Yasmin McQuinlan, said the pandemic had "reduced the capacity and resources for New Zealand citizens and residents to enter New Zealand freely without challenge."
She said these challenges would see her lose the "ability to participate in the democratic process in the country of which I am a citizen."
McQuinlan suggested extending the period before someone was disenfranchised to five years.
Lamia Imam, who advocated for the rights of overseas New Zealanders for the Team of 6 Million group, said she would be "delighted" if the three-year timeframe was extended.
"I've been locked out of voting, which definitely was not great," she said.
"People don't lose their connection to NZ just because they are out of the country for three years. A lot of us still have to pay our student loans, for example," she said.
Imam said she was concerned about the implications of MIQ fees on voting rights.
If the only way into New Zealand was to pay a $3000 MIQ fee, this would effectively mean the only way for overseas people to access the right to vote would be to pay a fee.
Although restricting voting rights based on wealth was common up to a century ago, when restrictions based on sex and race were also common, most modern democracies do not restrict the franchise in such a way.