So prisoners will not get the vote. David Cameron has pledged against it, in defiance of the European Court of Human Rights ruling, and despite the protestations of Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, who has pointed out that Britain was legally obliged to uphold the European diktat. No: the Prime Minister sets his store by last year’s vote in which MPs agreed by 234 to 22 to keep prisoners away from the ballot box.
On the surface, this issue appears to be simply another self-contained instance of friction between London and Brussels. But it is more than that. In reality, it is an expression of a fundamental – and controversial – philosophical question: Does every citizen really deserve to vote? If so, why?
This issue has been explored by Jennifer L. Hochschild, Professor of Government at Harvard. In 2010, she published a study entitled If democracies need informed voters, how can they thrive while expanding enfranchisement?, which suggests that “as democracies become more democratic [by giving the vote to disenfranchised groups], their decision-making processes become of lower quality in terms of cognitive processing of issues and candidate choice”. Although it is an unassailable ideal of democracy to govern by consent of the entire populace, the more that access to the vote is liberalised, the less responsible the electorate becomes, and the more volatile their decisions. If prisoners were allowed to vote, for instance, the future of our country would, to some small extent, rely upon their judgment. Continue reading on the Telegraph website