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September 11, 2017 | by  | in News |
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Prisoner Voting Rights Debate and Panel at Wikitoria

On August 17, JustSpeak hosted a debate and panel in Victoria’s Memorial Theatre to discuss the voting rights of prisoners in Aotearoa. The panel included Green Party Candidate Chlöe Swarbrick, Mara Davis (Young Labour), Danny Poa (Restorative Justice Facilitator), Elijah Pue (Young Māori Party), Jack Gradwell (Young New Zealand First), and Laura O’Connell-Rapira (ActionStation).

The debate included DebSoc debaters and Wellington Improv and Comedy players Jennifer Alice, Matt Powell, and Janaye Henry. Henry stated “the Bill of Rights Act states all New Zealand citizens should have the right to vote,” and that therefore she couldn’t understand why prisoners had this right revoked from them.

According to Statistics New Zealand, over 51% of total prisoner population were Māori in 2012, which is just over 0.6% of the entire Māori population in New Zealand. As the statistics suggest, Māori are overrepresented in prison populations, and significantly underrepresented in general voting turnout. It can be said, then, that prisoner voting rights are not only a social justice issue, but a uniquely Māori issue.

JustSpeak is a group of young people who aim to promote and encourage conversation about the need for change in Aotearoa’s Criminal Justice System. With the impending election in September conversation around the voting rights of imprisoned New Zealanders is more prevalent than ever.

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