85% of Lib Dem members back votes for prisoners

by Stephen Tall on November 6, 2012

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 550 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Majority favour votes for some (but not all) prisoners

LDV asked: The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the British Government cannot maintain its blanket ban on prisoners being disqualified from voting. What is your view?

    30% – I support votes for all prisoners
    55% – I support votes for some categories of prisoners (eg, for non-violent offences and/or in the lead-up to release from prison)
    13% – I do not support any prisoners having the vote
    1% – Don’t know

An overwhelming 85% of Lib Dem members in our survey support prisoners being given the right to vote — however, a clear majority (55%) would restrict that right to certain categories of prisoner. Just 13% of party members support the continuation of the blanket ban on prisoners being able to vote that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled illegal. Here’s a sample of your comments…

Having the vote taken away should be par for the course for serious crimes and as something to do when sentencing, but a blanket ban for all offenses (including politically motivated crimes or protests) is wrong.

The right to elect those who govern should be a fundamental right. A prisoner is entitled to be represented by his MP, so he should be entitled to vote for him. The exception would be those who will never be released.

If the proven activities are sufficient for a custodial sentence, then the rights of citizenship have been rejected.

Support as long as they vote in their ‘home’ areas – it would distort things if prisoners voted in the area where the prisons are located.

What are people afraid of here? Prisoners are still entitled to a say. Their sentence is to deny them their freedom, but not their freedom of expression. Other countries don’t seem to have a problem with this, why should we?

I do not believe those who have who have been sentenced for a criminal act against persons or property should have the right to vote.

Voting – an essential part of belonging to society, and hence of rehabilitation. Taking away the vote takes away any interest in the outside world to which prisoners will one day return.

Voting should only be for those in gaol for a sentence that could have been non-custodial. But if Parliament votes again to have a blanket ban that should be respected. You give up the human right to liberty when commiting a crime, so it is not unreasonable to lose that right too.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 550 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 28th and 31st October.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.