human dignity, equality and voting rights


In the aftermath of the General election polling station catastrophe(s) it’s encouraging to see representative groups voicing the need for change- so that no-one is disadvantaged in their opportunity to vote. Yesterday the charity SCOPE began its campaign to ensure online voting becomes the norm for future elections. It’s surely outrageous that those who feel the most vulnerable (and may be most affected by welfare cuts) are most intimidated by current voting methods. Security practicalities would have to be addressed and, of course,  there would need to be choice provided so that those without internet access could still participate.

However, for a different group of potential voters I suggest only supervised online voting: prisoners. It seems to me to be entirely in keeping with the opening three chapters of the Bible that prisoners should be allowed to vote. We all have the image of God implanted in our very beings and we have all fallen short of the perfect standard by declaring independence from our Maker. Yet we find the latter point so difficult to accept. Take the discussion I had on a gloriously sunny day by the sea on Friday- a man walking his dog struck up conversation because I ‘must be reading a good book’. Well actually some people call it the good book. Anyway, we talked about sport which allowed him to vent his feelings about over-paid footballers (and the spending habits of their WAGs) and then he said:

‘there’s only one group worse than them and that’s politicians: liars and hypocrites the lot of them’.

‘Just like you and me’ I replied ‘and that’s the message of the good book, that we’re all like that..’

‘No we’re not, not you anyway, because you’re reading it’ he offered

‘that’s why we all need a saviour…’

‘Anyway I must be going now’

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I find myself in these conversations each and every day- indeed the reason I remember it so well is because it happens so rarely. Votes for prisoners? Absolutely. In today’s age, video conferencing facilities would enable some lively hustings for HMP max-security and these voters would not require a leisurely stroll to the village hall. And we might reflect that we all have the same human dignity.

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