… ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people

I have a strange sort of feeling that something vaguely significant might be happening today…Anyone?

And on a-totally-not-related topic today’s post is on the… right to vote.

The UK has until the 22nd November to announce what it plans to do about the EU ruling that a blanket ban on prisoners voting is illegal.

I’m going to leave the whole question of whether Britain should follow EU directives well alone (Nothing makes me want to go to sleep faster than the intricacies of European law, ask my college law teacher) but the issue of whether prisoners should have the vote is both an interesting one and one that seems invoke highly emotional response.

One that if the papers are to be believed, tends to skew in the direction of “HELL NO.” Only 6% of the population thinks all prisoners should get the vote, and David Cameron himself has said “No one should be in any doubt. Prisoners are not getting the vote under this government.”

And I can understand the argument why. Though it might not seem like it in this the land of increasing apathy and endless moaning about the bloody government, the vote is a precious thing.

It’s a right that women  in this country have fought for, been arrested and imprisoned for been on hunger strike for. It’s a right that POC in the US were beaten and killed for, when they tried to exercise it. It’s a right that people all over the world have started bloody revolutions for. It needs to be treated with respect

And prisoners have done something terrible, terrible enough that their liberty has been taken from them. They already get Televisions and Xboxes why should we give them the vote too?

Ignoring the whole Television’s and X-box refrain, (I’m going to write a post on that some other time) The most obvious answer to that is because it’s a right, not a privilege. Every mentally stable person over the age of 18 has that right, whether or not they choose to exercise it .And the government deciding that a whole section (albeit a small one of around 0.2%) doesn’t have it  has pretty ominous connotations. Why should the privileged few decide who gets what is supposed to be an inalienable right?

But we do take away rights from prisoners- liberty being the most obvious- so why not this too?

Well, it would seem that prisoners who feel more connected to society are more likely to be successfully rehabilitated upon leaving. And with high recidivism (re-offending) rates- 1 in 3 people before a judge having been there some 15 times before- why shouldn’t we give them this one thing- remind them that they can have a voice in society too?

I know it doesn’t fit with the whole “punish the evildoer” thing we have going on, but those in prison are too often society’s most broken and disenfranchised. I’m not saying they are blameless or it’s all society’s fault, but we fit into the problem somehow.

It’s not easy to see if prisoners being able to put a cross in the box will actually be a part of the solution but I think its worth a try.

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5 thoughts on “… ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people

  1. In America, not only prisoners, but those who have a criminal record are not allowed to vote. There is a process, I believe, to get certain rights restored; having no experience with it, however, I imagine it is bureaucratic and slow and possibly not viable. I agree wholeheartedly that punishment and rehabilitation do not mix – at least not with our voters. I enjoyed reading your perspective on it.

    • I was purged from voting in America! We’re still not sure why, but since I don’t live in America at the moment, going through the process is just too much for me. I certainly didn’t have time to fix it before the election, since I found out I was purged only after I’d tried to register.

      I don’t have a criminal record, but my party affiliations and identifying information are public. When you register to vote in my home state, you have to state your party and it’s recorded with your address and placed in a large open book in the town hall. You can fill in a complaint form to report perceived voter fraud, and it is possible that somebody complained that this registered Democrat was known to have moved out of the country. (Many American domestic abuse victims do not exercise their right to vote, as it would lead their stalkers or abusers straight to them.)

      Sorry for the derail! It’s still a sore point at the moment.

  2. I’m familiar with the issues for domestic abuse victims – I have a stalker ex who, 15 years later, is still at it. Because of this, I don’t register or sign up for anything that puts my address out there. Here’s hoping that isn’t your issue. I’m sorry to hear you weren’t able to vote – but it went the way it should, so it’s o.k., and you’ll be able to straighten it all out before the next one.

  3. @Elodie No worries about the derail. I’m sorry you didn’t get to vote!
    That voters in a book thing makes no sense to me- I thought voting was supposed to be secret?
    Are you eligible to vote in UK elections?

    @Vickodo
    Thank you for your kind comments, and I’m sorry about your ex

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