Andrew Geddis on a couple of electoral matters

Andrew Geddis joins the chorus of experts certain that Kim Dotcom is full of the proverbial over his claims he can stand for parliament.

Quite how a convicted fraudster and German national is going to get over the citizenship line is beyond almost everyone except the Fat German.

Now, others already have expressed a degree of (shall we say) complete and utter disbelief regarding this claim. So let me just add my voice to theirs and say that Kim Dotcom ain’t going to be a candidate at the 2014 election. I’ve taken the liberty of putting the reason why in bold italics:

47 Registered electors may be members, unless disqualified

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, every person who is registered as an elector of an electoral district, but no other person, is qualified to be a candidate and to be elected a member of Parliament, whether for that electoral district, any other electoral district or as a consequence of the inclusion of that person’s name in a party list … .

(3) Regardless of anything in subsection (1), a person is not qualified to be a candidate or to be elected unless he or she is a New Zealand citizen. 

I have no idea what Dotcom’s lawyers think they’ve discovered in “the several hundred pages of NZ electoral law” they’ve been wading through, but to my eyes s.47(3) is pretty much conclusive. Especially as the things Dotcom mentions (“a permanent resident of New Zealand who’s lived here for more than a year”) are actually requirements to be permitted to register to vote under s.74(1), not candidacy per se. (Although, as s.47(1) states, actual registration is a pre-requisite to being qualified to be a candidate).

So – either Dotcom’s lawyers have access to some special understanding of the Electoral Act 1993 that no-one else has, or Dotcom has misunderstood what his lawyers are telling him (that he will be able to register to vote come November), or he’s spinning the media a line to try and make himself look like more of a player than he really is. I guess we’ll find out later this week.

He also discusses the crims taking the Government to court over the ban on voting for prisoners.

[G]iven that the Court is going to conclude that Parliament has enacted a law that removes individual rights in a way that cannot be demonstrably justified, what can it then do about that fact?

One thing it is told to do is see if it is able to read the law in a different way that doesn’t limit the right at issue (or, at least, limits it in a lesser fashion). But, it is only to do this where it “can” give the law a different meaning – and that interpretative discretion doesn’t extend to rewriting or twisting the words Parliament has used beyond the meaning that they reasonably carry. So where Parliament has been clear about what it wants, then the courts can’t stop Parliament getting it by making the statute say something different.

(For the record, the Electoral Act 1993, s.81(1)(d) states that a person may not register to vote if she or he is “a person who is detained in a prison pursuant to a sentence of imprisonment imposed after [15 December 2010].” I’ll again simply state that there is zero chance that a NZ court will read this as meaning anything other than what it says; if you’re in jail serving your sentence, you don’t get to go on the electoral roll. Zero chance.]

What, then, if the court can’t read the law in a way that makes the rights inconsistency go away? Well, the New Zealand Bill of Rights is clear about this, too. The job of the courts is to apply the law as Parliament has made it, and they can’t refuse to do so or deem that law to be invalid just because they think it imposes some limit on individual rights that cannot be justified.

So a symbolic whining from the court on behalf of ratbags in jail? Good luck to any political party (Labour) that wants to stick up for ratbags in prison.

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