I'm grateful to Michael Ezra for his remarks commending my blog. I hope he won't think it churlish of me, therefore, if after thanking him I go on to say that, in registering a disagreement between us regarding the right of prisoners to vote, he gets my view of the matter quite wrong. Michael writes:
Norm appears to be against prisoners having votes and I am in favour.
I don't know how he has formed this impression. In my latest post on the subject (yesterday), to which Michael links, I begin by saying:
Louis Blom-Cooper thinks that giving prisoners the vote would be of quite general benefit. For one thing it would encourage the rehabilitation of prisoners. He may well be right about this.
Not the words of someone dead set against prisoner voting. And, in fact, in all the posts I have written on the subject, I have never argued that, as a general principle, prisoners should not be allowed to vote. What I have argued are two things. First, I have pointed out that as conviction and imprisonment entail a loss of rights on the part of those imprisoned, it is not just axiomatic which rights they lose and which they retain; so the common practice of simply asserting the right of prisoners to vote, as if it could not be forfeited, begs the question. Second, I have urged one relevant reason why some people might think those who commit serious crimes should lose their right to vote. As I wrote in that most recent post:
...those who commit serious crimes have put themselves in a different relationship to law and law-making than those who don't. They flout the law. That might be thought a reason they should be ineligible to vote - to participate in the process of law-making - until such time as they have 'redeemed' the act of doing so.
I don't even claim that this is a decisive reason; I just say it's a reason. (It's a reason, incidentally, that the European Court of Human Rights itself would appear implicitly to recognize.) I think a lot of people would be swayed by the notion that if you're unwilling to uphold the law you're not entitled to a part in making it.
And that's it. I mean, that's it so far as what I've ever argued on this blog. As it happens, my view is that some, maybe most, prisoners should retain the right to vote, but that it should be forfeited for a limited category of very serious offences.