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Voting Rights for prisoners

...on serious topics that don't fit anywhere else at present.

Voting rights for prisoners

Prisoners should be allowed to vote in general elections
10
24%
Some prisoners should be allowed to vote in general elections
4
10%
No prisoners should be allowed to vote in general elections
6
15%
Don't know/other
1
2%
The UK should comply with the ruling of European Court of Human Rights
11
27%
The UK should challenge the jurisdiction of European Court of Human Rights
7
17%
Don't know/other
2
5%
 
Total votes: 41

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Alan H
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#21 Post by Alan H » January 21st, 2011, 4:53 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

Interesting blog post: The Thorny Issue of Prisoners' Votes
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Alan C.
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#22 Post by Alan C. » January 21st, 2011, 4:53 pm

Fia wrote:Is prison considered home?
Well they don't pay council tax, electricity bills, gas bills et al, so I would say no. :)
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

Nick
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#23 Post by Nick » January 21st, 2011, 4:59 pm

Fia wrote:Well, firstly I think we should always comply with the European Court of Human Rights. There's not a lot of point in having one if member states say "We understand what you say, because we support Human Rights, but we're not going to comply as it's too delicate to sell to the voters". One is a signatory, or one isn't.
Hmmm... I think it's more nuanced than that. (And bear in mind that personally I do not feel the need to restrict prisoers' voting rights). The key point is that according to Mssrs. Straw and Davies (neither of whom are nutters) the European Court has developed "mission creep" (that's my phrase, not theirs), by exceeding the scope of the original agreement. To my mind, being deprived of one's liberty is much more serious than being deprived of one's vote while imprisoned. If the government is able to deprive people of a variety of human rights by imprisoning them, I am at a loss to see why electoral rights should be protected.

And considering the apparent hostility to votes for prisoners shared by both Labour and Conservatives, does it not interfere with the right of the elected governement to enact such legislation as it (within reason) sees fit? There are also things which many might regard as a human right, (immigration, say) which are currently restricted by the government. There has to be some brake on how far a foreign court, unaccountable to our electorate, can impose laws upon us which we do not share. Messrs. Straw and Davies think that should be addressed, and I'minclined to agree.

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Dave B
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#24 Post by Dave B » January 21st, 2011, 5:03 pm

animist wrote:many of the replies seem to be putting the vote on a par with personal privileges like TV etc. But surely there is a rational incentive for the governance system to make the population, including offenders, take an active interest in how the country is governed, and withdrawing the vote from convicts is a strange way to foster any sense of social involvement and responsibility; I imagine most prisoners would just shrug and say "what the f-k " if told they had lost this "privilege".
I was going off at an angle when I mentioned various other things that prisoners loose, trying to say that it is not all a bed of Roses as some seem to think - it's a bloody expensive bed of thorns!

So far as getting people to, "take an active interest in how the country is governed", I do not think giving prisomners the vote will help with this much, it is hard enough to get the average Joe or Josephine to take enough interest to vote in a knowledgeable way (and our media and the election circus give us a distorted vision of the issues and the possible solutions I feel).
animist wrote:So I would say "yes" to the vote, and I am not sure how, in Dave's scenario, one would draw the line between serious and trivial offences.
That could be a problem, it might be up to the judge to decide the "class" of sentence, make the removal of the franchise part of the punishment for anti-social crimes.
animist wrote:One the other issue, I think we should stick with international opinion if at all possible - the issue of the vote for prisoners is hardly a huge issue on which to rock the boat.
Deep down I know that, in the end, total cooperation between nations is the only solutions to the survival and advance of the human race (assuming we don't die out due to our treatment of the environment!) but I get so aggrieved at some of the, seemingly, rushed and badly thought out regulations generated by the EU Commission - an unvoted dictatorial bunch of bureaucrats in the main.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

Nick
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#25 Post by Nick » January 21st, 2011, 5:12 pm

Dave B wrote:
animist wrote:So I would say "yes" to the vote, and I am not sure how, in Dave's scenario, one would draw the line between serious and trivial offences.
That could be a problem, it might be up to the judge to decide the "class" of sentence, make the removal of the franchise part of the punishment for anti-social crimes.
Surely length of sentence would do, as proposed.
Dave B wrote:
animist wrote:One the other issue, I think we should stick with international opinion if at all possible - the issue of the vote for prisoners is hardly a huge issue on which to rock the boat.
Deep down I know that, in the end, total cooperation between nations is the only solutions to the survival and advance of the human race (assuming we don't die out due to our treatment of the environment!) but I get so aggrieved at some of the, seemingly, rushed and badly thought out regulations generated by the EU Commission - an unvoted dictatorial bunch of bureaucrats in the main.
I agree with most of both those views.

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animist
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#26 Post by animist » January 21st, 2011, 5:25 pm

Nick wrote:
Dave B wrote:
animist wrote:So I would say "yes" to the vote, and I am not sure how, in Dave's scenario, one would draw the line between serious and trivial offences.
That could be a problem, it might be up to the judge to decide the "class" of sentence, make the removal of the franchise part of the punishment for anti-social crimes.
Surely length of sentence would do, as proposed.
I would again have to disagree with the implied premiss that the vote is some sort of benefit - it is part of the democratic process, and maybe lifers need, more than do short-term inmates, to be made aware that they are still part of society despite whatever it is that they have done

Fia
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#27 Post by Fia » January 21st, 2011, 7:35 pm

Bunging this here before I read Alan's link...
animist wrote:It is part of the democratic process, and maybe lifers need, more than do short-term inmates, to be made aware that they are still part of society despite whatever it is that they have done
Good point. A thought also struck me whether prisoners could stand for election. And then I remembered Bobby Sands...

Fia
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#28 Post by Fia » January 21st, 2011, 8:10 pm

Interesting article, Alan H, thank you.
A cynical observer might suspect there is a complex “set up” to attack the Human Rights Act 1998, under which Labour brought the European Convention directly into UK law – and which the Tories have made no secret of wanting to repeal.
Yup, agrees Ms Cynical :) It's just the sort of muddiness angle of this issue that is a gift to Tory spin doctors (when they can find another one :D )
The simple fact is we are signatories to the European Convention (along with virtually every other country in Europe) and we are a member of the EU. As long as we remain so, our government cannot “cherry pick” which fundamental rights it wishes to respect and those it does not wish to.
Quite. I understand that supporting Human Rights can give us a warm fuzzy feeling. We can feel good ticking that box by being a signatory. But Human Rights are exactly what they say on the tin. There are times we may not like practical aspects, or be unwilling to support the nuances to the electorate. But we can be fair and civilised, or not....
Nick wrote:There has to be some brake on how far a foreign court, unaccountable to our electorate, can impose laws upon us which we do not share.
We signed up to it. I don't consider it "foreign", in the same way as I consider myself European first. If we seem not to share then to me it's a heads-up to re-evaluate our understanding of human rights, not up to the court to change because of UK tabloid pressure or misguided government shenanigans.

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Dave B
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#29 Post by Dave B » January 21st, 2011, 8:24 pm

The saying, "One man's freedom/security is another's prison" crops up often and can be true. There are few freedom's that do not have a negative aspect.

To give every criminal, every sufferer from a personality disorder or paranoia, every terrorist suspect etc. their complete human rights means accepting that you may place you and yours, or the bloke down the road, some woman in another town, anyone anywhere . . . in danger.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

Nick
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#30 Post by Nick » January 21st, 2011, 8:27 pm

Interesting, Fia. As I understand it, if an MP is sentenced to longer than 1 year s/he loses his/her seat in the Commons, but would this apply to one who was imprisoned before being elected? I wonder if that came in after Bobby Sands was elected...? If the electorate wish to elect a prisoner, then I think they should be able to do so. OTOH, I think it is reasonable that if an MP is imprisoned, then the electorate should be able to elect someone else should they wish. I think the 1 year limit is about right, so that an MP is not automatically thrown out if imprisoned for a minor offence (eg an act of civil disobedience.) Historically, other MP's have been elected 'against the rules', (a Rothschild comes to mind....) so it has a long and honorable history.

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jaywhat
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#31 Post by jaywhat » January 22nd, 2011, 3:18 pm

I feel in a minority on this one and am a bit surprised on this humanist forum which I would have thought would have been more humane.
A lot of what I say is rubbish and is over the top, but I do not see myself as a wishywashy liberal minded softy - it is just that I feel our use of prisons is way beyond what a country that calls itself civilised and forward looking should be aiming at - over time.

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Alan C.
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#32 Post by Alan C. » January 22nd, 2011, 4:17 pm

jaywhat
it is just that I feel our use of prisons is way beyond what a country that calls itself civilised and forward looking should be aiming at
I would agree with you on that but I still think that if you are in prison you should forfeit your right to vote.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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animist
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#33 Post by animist » January 22nd, 2011, 4:29 pm

Dave B wrote:The saying, "One man's freedom/security is another's prison" crops up often and can be true. There are few freedom's that do not have a negative aspect.

To give every criminal, every sufferer from a personality disorder or paranoia, every terrorist suspect etc. their complete human rights means accepting that you may place you and yours, or the bloke down the road, some woman in another town, anyone anywhere . . . in danger.
I don't think anyone is suggesting that convicted criminals should not lose ANY rights, are they?

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animist
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#34 Post by animist » January 22nd, 2011, 4:30 pm

Nick wrote:There has to be some brake on how far a foreign court, unaccountable to our electorate, can impose laws upon us which we do not share.
Fia wrote:We signed up to it. I don't consider it "foreign", in the same way as I consider myself European first. If we seem not to share then to me it's a heads-up to re-evaluate our understanding of human rights, not up to the court to change because of UK tabloid pressure or misguided government shenanigans.
I agree with Fia, and while institutions like the Court may in theory seem less accountable than are our own politicians, the latter more than often fail to be - as the Iraq debacle illustrates.

Bobby Sands - I just checked this up, and you are right, Nick: soon after his death the UK government legislated to stop any repeat of this election!

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animist
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#35 Post by animist » January 22nd, 2011, 5:30 pm

Alan C. wrote:
And what constituency would they vote in?
Good point Griblet.
but TBH a very technical one

Nick
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#36 Post by Nick » January 22nd, 2011, 5:40 pm

I've been trying to get to the bottom of the case, and it's not easy. But then again, if it gets as far as the ECRH I would not expect it to be! And let me r-state: I would be content for prisoners to be allowed to vote; I'm not trying to deprive prisoners of the vote, but I am concerned about how the rules are set. It seems to me, that the basis of the judgement is this:

The denial of his voting rights violated Protocol 1 of Article 3 of the ECHR. This states:
The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature.
This does not mean that voting rights cannot be withdrawn for prisoners. It has been implied that the UK has not laid down suitable criteria. Or more truthfully, that the law laid down was not liberal enough. Austria were also ruled against for banning those serving over 2 years.

The Protocol does not, it seems, state what limit would be suitable.

In the absence of this, it seems reasonable to me that either the signatory should be responsible, or the Protocol should be more specific. But judgement about the Protocol is being made by a group of people too far removed from those affected.

If all Protocols were taken at face value, then we could be in all kinds of trouble. For example, Article 2 states: [my bold]
No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions.
Seems like, "faith schools, here we come!", including creationism, madrassas etc.

I can hear the reply "Oh, but they would never insist on that!" Well, frankly, I don't want the possibility to even exist!

Nick
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#37 Post by Nick » January 22nd, 2011, 5:54 pm

animist wrote:
Nick wrote:There has to be some brake on how far a foreign court, unaccountable to our electorate, can impose laws upon us which we do not share.
Fia wrote:We signed up to it. I don't consider it "foreign", in the same way as I consider myself European first. If we seem not to share then to me it's a heads-up to re-evaluate our understanding of human rights, not up to the court to change because of UK tabloid pressure or misguided government shenanigans.
I agree with Fia, and while institutions like the Court may in theory seem less accountable than are our own politicians, the latter more than often fail to be - as the Iraq debacle illustrates.
If you are concerned about accountability, then we should be increasing it, not accepting less accountability.

As for "foreign", I thought that would raise a response :D , but it is perfectly legitimate to press for "subsidiarity" as much as possible. I do not consider I have any right to oppose (say) an independent Scotland if the residents of Scotland chose it in legitimate fashion. How legitimate would you consider an invasion of Iran, say, led by British troops, if commanded by the EU, even if the UK electorate opposed it overwhemingly?

Prisoners' voting rights my not be worth fighting over, but OTOH, much better to pick a small fight to establish legal boundaries, than a huge one.

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animist
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#38 Post by animist » January 22nd, 2011, 6:04 pm

Nick wrote: If all Protocols were taken at face value, then we could be in all kinds of trouble. For example, Article 2 states: [my bold]
No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions.
Seems like, "faith schools, here we come!", including creationism, madrassas etc.

I can hear the reply "Oh, but they would never insist on that!" Well, frankly, I don't want the possibility to even exist!
think you have a point - what about the right of children NOT to be indoctrinated in their parents' ideologies? Of course we have faith schools already without the Court telling us to. I wonder how the French desire for secularism is coping with this Article?

tubataxidriver
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#39 Post by tubataxidriver » January 22nd, 2011, 6:26 pm

Sorry, late into the discussion. I voted yes (they should all vote) and yes (we should comply with the ruling).

The main reason people are against this seems to me to be because they think that prison should be a punishment and that any right or luxury should be removed. Prisoners will come out at some stage (most of them) and anything we can do to engender a bit more self-control and responsibility in them while they are inside needs trying.

The main reason they are taking legal action seems to me to be encouragement by lawyers and the prospect of free money (lawyer fees and compensation) from the state.

Nick
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#40 Post by Nick » January 22nd, 2011, 6:37 pm

TTD, do you say we should comply because 'votes for prisoners' is the right thing to do, or because you accept the authority of the Court to judge on this matter, even if it is thereby extending its jurisdiction? If you think it has not exceeded its legitimacy, what justification would you give?

Lord Muck oGentry
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Re: Voting Rights for prisoners

#41 Post by Lord Muck oGentry » January 22nd, 2011, 6:45 pm

There's a summary of recent events here:
http://www.hrlrc.org.au/court-tribunal/ ... mber-2010/

And the recent judgment here:
http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/2010/1826.html
What we can't say, we can't say and we can't whistle it either. — Frank Ramsey

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