Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Voting No Against Prisoners

Prisoners are to get the right to vote. I'm appalled but not surprised.

Although I'm tempted to turn this into a rant against our EU membership I'll refrain. Let me just say that the ECHR ruling is a violation of our rights as a country. But back to the issue at hand.

Why shouldn't prisoners be allowed to vote? Well, they sacrificed their rights to such privileges when they committed their crime. I realise, however, that it's a generalisation and that there are different categories of offender. However, the idea that 'serious offenders' may still be prevented from voting doesn't solve that problem. You could have a perfectly harmless elderly man who killed his suffering wife. He's labelled as a murderer but surely he's more worthy of the vote than the BNP thug in the next cell who only glassed someone in the face?

Of course, there is the idea that judges will decide at sentencing whether the prisoner will be allowed to vote or not. This could be a solution but it relies on the personal prejudices of a judge. This isn't to suggest that they are any more discriminatory than the rest of us but cases are bound to occur where a 'fit' prisoner is deemed unable to vote. All the prisoner has to do is appeal the ruling and suddenly you might find that we aren't allowed any restrictions at all.

I see one probable outcome to this. As a nation we're distinctly uninterested in politics. The turnout at elections is paltry compared to what it used to be and many people would have difficulty naming members of the current Coalition Cabinet. I would hazard a guess that the turnout amongst eligible prisoners would be significantly higher than the average public turnout.

Is this democracy? When the views of the guilty influence more than the views of the innocent but disinterested?

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