Saturday, May 26, 2012

Who Should Have The Vote?

What should be the principle on which we decide who should have the vote?

To me enfranchisement rights should go to anyone who is directly effected by the decisions of those who determine laws, regulations, taxation and other public measures which impinge upon their lives.  The only justification I can see for restricting voting rights would be on the grounds of a person's incapacity to exercise such rights. This limiting factor should, however, err on the side of caution - excluding from enfranchisement only those, say, under 16 years of age* and those with such a serious mental impairment that it makes them incapable of exercising voting rights.

That would mean that anyone who is settled in the territory concerned would have the vote. Yet we currently exclude people from voting who have settled here from overseas and are citizens of countries other than Ireland and Commonwealth nations. We also exclude many who are imprisoned. Yet they are clearly subject to the laws of the land. 

The only problem to resolve under the principle I propound, is what should happen to British citizens who are settled overseas? It seems to me that it is only if they are significantly effected by the general principle I am using, that they should qualify here. It is the only area which calls for any serious judgement to be made. Otherwise the principle I am using is straightforward.

Are any of our politicians arguing the above case? If not, that is seriously disturbing. It indicates a flaw in their commitment to democracy. As is the fact that even under our current inadequate enfranchisement provisions, millions of those entitled to vote are not registered.

* = we need to recognise that the qualifying age for voting is arbitrary; but any selective method of determining when a young person should be allowed to vote would have serious dangers attached to it - which could lead to pressures to limit adult enfranchisement.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Will Labour Campaign For A Full Franchise?

                                                               Click above to enlarge

In his speech to "Progress" (see here), Ed Miliband has announced that Labour will be undertaking the biggest electoral registration drive for a generation. I hope that this means that such a campaign will make full use of Labour's parliamentary avenues.

When I introduced a Private Members Bill in the 1992/3 parliamentary session aimed at tackling under-registration it was talked out by the Conservatives. For the measure to progress, we needed to win the closure vote and have a hundred members in our lobby. But despite the support of the Labour Front Bench (including that of Tony Blair, then Shadow Home Secretary, in the above letter), we failed as we "only" won the division by 78-0. It is hoped that in any re-run, sufficient Labour back-benchers will turn up.

In 2000, the Government eventually carried legislation which made various improvements in the electoral registration procedures, including a measure enabling those who moved home to transfer their registration arrangements without having to wait for the annual registration procedure. Unfortunately, the Electoral Commission now show that only 14% of those who have moved their homes are making use of this facility.

I hope that Yvette Cooper, Labour's current Home Affairs' Spokesperson, will have a look at my own failed efforts to improve the legislation, including the unsuccessful improving amendments I pursued when the Commons dealt with Labour's measure in 2000.

The serious nature of the issue has been revealed by the Electoral Commission.  At least 6 million are now missing from registers, with only 56% of 19-24 year olds being covered and the same low percentage for those in private rented accommodation.

Ed's and Yvette's campaign needs to draw from the Chartists and the Suffragettes, whose efforts have unfortunately been seriously undermined in recent years.