Information on eligibility to vote for Resident Visa holders is clarified on the Vote NZ website

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The Electoral Commission has clarified voting eligibility requirements on its website for resident visa holders, after admitting it was confusing.

The changes come after RNZ revealed that an Auckland woman on a 2021 resident visa was wrongly refused to vote by an election official last week.

The woman was wrongly informed that her type of visa did not meet the eligibility criteria.

The commission’s website, Vote NZ, now includes information confirming that resident visa holders who have lived in New Zealand continuously for more than a year and meet other conditions are eligible to vote.

The update comes five days before voting closes for local body elections.

Previously, the wording said people had to be a “permanent resident”, for electoral purposes, to be able to vote without further explanation for people with other types of resident visas.

A spokesman for the commission said the wording reflected election law.

But she admitted it sometimes caused confusion because not everyone understood the term had different meanings under electoral law and immigration law.

She said the commission had previously recommended that Parliament change the choice of words in the law.

Adi Avnit, who worked for the Hakatere Multicultural Council in Ashburton, said ambiguous wording had misled resident visa holders into believing they were not eligible to vote in the last local elections.

“The term permanent resident is used by two different government organizations with two different meanings,” Avnit said. He wanted the wording of the electoral law to be changed for greater clarity.

“They used the term permanent resident, which is also the name of a visa, which migrants are more familiar with,” he said.

Avnit said many residents who had not yet applied for permanent residency may have missed the opportunity to vote due to this confusion.

Justice Minister Kiri Allen has acknowledged that the Electoral Commission’s report on the 2020 general election recommended replacing the term “permanent resident” in the Elections Act with a different term, such as “resident for electoral purposes”. “.

She said an independent review of the Elections Act was underway and that any future changes to the Elections Act 1993 would be an opportunity to consider whether to update the terminology of the Act.

However, she said the Justice Committee made no recommendations on the use of the term in its interim report on the 2020 election.

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