A new Joint Committee has been appointed by both Houses of Parliament to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill. The Joint Committee comprises 6 MPs and 6 Peers. It will take oral and written evidence and make recommendations in a report to both Houses. The Joint Committee invites interested organisations and individuals to send written submissions by 5 pm on Thursday 13 June 2013 as part of the inquiry.
CALL FOR EVIDENCE
The Joint Committee on the draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill invites interested organisations and individuals to submit written evidence as part of its inquiry.
The draft Bill
The Joint Committee is particularly interested in receiving evidence on the three options for changes to the law set out in the draft bill. They are:
a. Disqualifying prisoners sentenced to 4 years or more in prison from voting.
b. Disqualifying prisoners sentenced more than 6 months in prison from voting.
c. Disqualifying all prisoners serving custodial sentences from voting – a restatement of the existing ban.
Please state your opinion on all or any of these options giving clear reasons as to why you, or your organisation, hold that particular view.
The Joint Committee would also welcome evidence on whether approaches beyond these options should also be considered.
The Joint Committee would also be grateful to receive evidence on the following specific questions. It is not necessary to address every question.
1. What are the historical and philosophical justifications for denying prisoners the right to vote?
2. Why is the right to vote considered to be a human right?
3. Is disqualifying prisoners from voting a suitable part of their punishment?
4. What are the financial implications of maintaining the current ban in terms of claims by prisoners for compensation?
5. Is sentence length a legally robust basis on which to retain an entitlement to vote?
6. What would be the likely legal consequences, both domestically and internationally of:
a) keeping the law as it is?
b) passing legislation giving some prisoners the right to vote, but in a way that maintains a form of blanket restriction?
c) seeking to comply by enfranchising the minimum number of prisoners possible consistent with our international legal obligations?
7. Would giving prisoners the right to vote have any significant administrative impact on either the prison system or the Electoral Commission?
8. Is there any evidence to suggest that allowing prisoners to vote would have a significant impact on particular constituencies?
9. What lessons can be drawn from the experience of other countries regarding prisoner voting?