If we’re going to ban people from voting, why stop at prisoners?

23rd November, 2012 12:02 pm

The prisoner’s right to vote has risen to the surface of the cesspit that is British political discourse, so while we’re at it I thought I’d offer my two penny’s worth. If we’re serious about banning prisoners from sticking an X in a box, why don’t we consider all of our options? While it’s on the table, let’s thrash it out.

Right, people who watch “I’m a Celebrity”, they shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Simply because it clashes with the news, so they’re not informed. People who haven’t studied politics at A Level – they’re also in line for a wagging index finger when you get to the ballot box – how can you possibly have a clue what they’re voting for?

People who don’t work. They don’t pay any taxes, so why should they get to vote for what tax pays for? Students, they’re professional moochers with too many opinions. They want to vote as well? I’m gatecrashing that party.

People who phone into Talk Sport. I’m not having them voting. Far too easily wound up. People with an IQ of less than 100. That’s it, mandatory IQ tests for everyone!

Wait.. sorry. I got a little carried away there. See, when you said it was alright to deny a section of society the vote, I probably took it too far.

When voting is no longer considered a universal right, but instead a privilege that is awarded to those we deem “fit and proper people” we no longer live in a democracy. This entire debate about prisoners voting is pointless. The percentage that would anyway is negligible – it’s like having a debate about whether the Royal Family should get Nectar points.

But with regards to the very few that would bother to vote, OK – you may not like them. That’s fine – I can’t think of any people that actually do like prisoners. But beating them with a stick that denies them suffrage puts the very principle of democracy at risk. (For those of you who have somehow evaded my irony, I don’t want us to ban anyone from voting.)

Instead, I’d rather we put fewer obstacles in the way and made voting easier. Why aren’t we having a debate about the viability of voting by text? Or even online, where it’s secure enough to do your banking but apparently not to vote once every five years? Instead we’re having a debate about getting even less people to vote than the 60-odd percent that bother.

To argue that prisoners shouldn’t have the vote “out of principle” is misguided. The only principle that matters is the principle of democracy.

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