Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Prisoner Voting

Something that made me mad in today's UK Supreme Court prisoner voting judgment. Per Lord Sumption:
115. From a prisoner’s point of view the loss of the right to vote is likely to be a very minor deprivation by comparison with the loss of liberty. There are no doubt prisoners whose interest in public affairs or strong views on particular issues are such that their disenfranchisement represents a serious loss, just as there are prisoners (probably more numerous) whose enthusiasm for active sports makes imprisonment a special hardship. The severity of a sentence of imprisonment for the convicted person will always vary with a wide variety of factors whose impact on him or her will inevitably be arbitrary to some degree. It has been said, for example, that disenfranchisement may bear hardly on someone sentenced to, say, a short period of imprisonment which happens to coincide with a general election. For some prisoners, this will no doubt be true. But I decline to regard it as any more significant than the fact that it may coincide with a special anniversary, a long anticipated holiday or the only period of fine weather all summer.
So much for a proper respect for democracy...

In order to heal the soul, here is a paragraph from Baroness Hale's judgement in the same case:
90. To take an obvious example, we would not regard a Parliament elected by an electorate consisting only of white, heterosexual men as uniquely qualified to decide whether women or African-Caribbeans or homosexuals should be allowed to vote. (...) Given that, by definition, Parliamentarians do not represent the disenfranchised, the usual respect which the courts accord to a recent and carefully considered balancing of individual rights and community interests (...) may not be appropriate.

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