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.


Blogger Brader said...

"anyone who is settled in the territory concerned would have the vote" but should they also have the vote in their territory of origin? Our son has moved to Australia, he can't vote there, so if he can't vote here either we have a problem. To be fair your proposal Harry would require reciprocal rights with ALL other countries.

Harry Barnes said...

Blogger Brader : The logic of my position is that your son should have his vote in Australia. I believe that the line I take should apply universally. But to expand on the principle, we have to try to start it off from where we are. As things stand already, our Government should point out to the Australian Government that as Australians who settle in the UK are already given the vote, then UK citizens settled in Australia should have the same rights there.

You son will be subject to Australian laws and Australian taxes. He will be part of Australian society and will follow Australian events via their media and through his daily experiences. It is a democratic disgrace that he isn't allowed a vote in a country which effects his life so much. Of course, if he ever returned to settle in the UK then his voting rights should then move with him.

There might, of course, be a case for retaining voting rights in the UK for a period of five years or so when our citizens first moves overseas, as their horizans might still be shaped by their UK experiences. But as time passes this will change.

There are some UK citizens who are overseas who are still very much effected by UK Government policies and, therefore, need voting rights - UK forces and Government servants who happen to be overseas. Perhaps the category could be extended, but only given clear and relevant reasons.