Electoral (Registration of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill

  • enacted

Electoral (Registration of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill

Government Bill

223—1

Explanatory note

General policy statement

This Bill makes changes to the Electoral Act 1993 (the Act) to enfranchise people who are serving a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than 3 years and better facilitate participation in the electoral system of prisoners who are to be released from prison following a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 3 years or more.

Prisoner voting

The Bill amends the Act to allow prisoners who are serving a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than 3 years to enrol to vote at elections and referendums if, under section 74 of the Act, they are qualified to be registered.

People who are in prison for a sentence of imprisonment for 3 years or more, or a sentence of preventive detention, or a sentence of imprisonment for life, continue to be disqualified from being able to enrol.

Enrolling prisoners serving a sentence of less than 3 years

When a prisoner is received into prison to serve a sentence of imprisonment of less than 3 years, if that prisoner is qualified to vote, a prison manager must, as soon as is reasonably practicable, engage with the prisoner and ask them if they want to enrol. If that prisoner consents, the prisoner must provide their enrolment details to the prison manager and the prison manager must forward those details to the Electoral Commission for processing. Enrolment information will be used by the Department of Corrections only for the purposes of transmission to the Electoral Commission.

Enrolling prisoners serving a sentence of 3 years or more

When a prisoner sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 3 years or more is due to be released from prison, if that prisoner is qualified to vote, a prison manager must, as soon as is reasonably practicable, engage with the prisoner and ask them if they want to enrol. If that prisoner consents, the prisoner must provide their enrolment details to the prison manager and the prison manager must forward those details to the Electoral Commission for processing. Enrolment information will be used by the Department of Corrections only for the purposes of transmission to the Electoral Commission.

Departmental disclosure statement

The Ministry of Justice is required to prepare a disclosure statement to assist with the scrutiny of this Bill. The disclosure statement provides access to information about the policy development of the Bill and identifies any significant or unusual legislative features of the Bill.

Regulatory impact assessment

The Ministry of Justice produced a regulatory impact assessment on 8 November 2019 to help inform the main policy decisions taken by the Government relating to the contents of this Bill.

Clause by clause analysis

Clause 1 is the Title clause.

Clause 2 is the commencement clause. It provides that the Bill comes into force on the day after the date of Royal assent.

Clause 3 provides that the Bill amends the Electoral Act 1993 (the principal Act).

Part 1Amendments relating to disqualification of sentenced prisoners for registration as electors

Clause 4 amends section 3 of the principal Act, which is the interpretation provision. This clause inserts a definition for prison manager, used in new sections 86A to 86C (inserted by clause 7).

Clause 5 amends section 80(1) of the principal Act, which sets out the persons who are disqualified from registering as electors. Currently, under section 80(1)(d), prisoners serving a sentence of imprisonment imposed after 16 December 2010 are disqualified from registering as an elector and are unable to vote at elections. The amendment replaces section 80(1)(d) so that prisoners serving a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than 3 years will no longer be disqualified from registering as electors. Prisoners who are detained in prison under a sentence of imprisonment for life, a sentence of preventive detention, or a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 3 years or more (including cumulative sentences that total 3 years or more) continue to be disqualified.

Clause 6 replaces section 81 of the principal Act, which currently provides that when a person sentenced to imprisonment is received into a prison, the prison manager must forward to the Electoral Commission the person’s details. New section 81 requires prison managers to forward to the Electoral Commission only the details of those prisoners who, under new section 80(1)(d), are disqualified from registration as electors.

Part 2Amendments relating to registration of sentenced prisoners as electors

Clause 7 inserts new sections 86A to 86E into the principal Act.

New sections 86A and 86B require prison managers to advise prisoners who are serving a term of imprisonment of less than 3 years, and prisoners after serving a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 3 years or more who are to be released, about registering as electors in accordance with the requirements of the principal Act and to ask whether they want their enrolment details sent to the Electoral Commission.

New section 86C sets out the enrolment information that a prisoner wanting to enrol as an elector must provide to a prison manager and requires the prison manager to collect and send that information to the Electoral Commission.

New section 86D provides what the Electoral Commission must do on the receipt of a person’s enrolment information.

New section 86E confers on a prison manager the power to delegate their functions under new sections 86A to 86C to prison officers.

Clause 8 replaces section 115 of the principal Act. Currently, section 115 confers on the Electoral Commission the power to direct that a person’s name and particulars not be published on any main or supplementary roll if the Commission considers that the publication of those details would be prejudicial to the safety of the person or the person’s family. New section 115 provides that in any case where a prisoner’s enrolment information received from a prison manager under new section 86C includes information that a prisoner does not want to have their details published on a roll, the Electoral Commission must automatically enter the prisoner’s details on the unpublished roll. No application is required from the prisoner and the Electoral Commission does not have to be satisfied that the publication of the prisoner’s details would be prejudicial to their safety or the safety of their family.

Clause 9 amends Schedule 1AA of the principal Act to insert a transitional provision relating to this Bill. It requires a prison manager to comply with new sections 86A and 86C in respect of a prisoner who is currently serving a term of imprisonment of less than 3 years (who, after this Bill is enacted and comes into force, will no longer be disqualified for registration).