National leader Simon Bridges thought some prisoners could vote

Before his first appearance on Newshub Nation as National leader, Simon Bridges thought some prisoners could vote.

Mr Bridges was asked on Saturday by host Lisa Owen whether prisoners should be able to vote.

"It depends on the level. I think the answer that we came to in Government was under, is it two or three years? Yes. Where they're in for really serious lags and really serious offences, no."

Ms Owen told him in fact, at the moment no prisoners can vote, and asked if Mr Bridges was proposing a change.

"Well I thought that was the Bill we had put in place," he replied.

Asked if he supported prisoners with sentences under three years being able to vote, he said: "Well no, I support the position we had. I thought I had that right."

In 1993, the National Government introduced a ban on voting for prisoners who were serving three years or more in prison. But in 2010, the National Government banned all prisoners from voting if they were in prison at the time of a general election.

In 2015 the High Court said disqualifying prisoners from voting was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.

The Crown has attempted to overturn that declaration, and an appeal case will be heard at the Supreme Court this month.

"Let me be clear with you - is there an issue with prisoners in prison not having the vote, do I feel prissy about that? Am I worried about the Bill of Rights implications? No I'm not," Mr Bridges said.

"I think when they committed serious crimes, and they have to be serious to be in jail, they forwent their right to vote at a General Election. While they're in prison at least."

He agreed that prisons are, as his predecessor put it, a fiscal and moral failure - but criticised the current Government's plan to reduce the number of inmates and prisons.

"Simply not having new prisons, so there's fewer prisoners but the same amount of criminals, is soft on crime and I don't agree with it."

He said he thought a proposed extension to Waikeria Prison should go ahead.

Watch the video for the full interview.

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