Next British Election May Not Comply With European Court of Human Rights Law

>> Wednesday, December 09, 2009

and not because the Tories may win, or even that the election may result in a hung parliament.

Rather, the EUCouncil of Europe is upset that the UK has been delaying the enactment of a 2005 European Court of Human Rights judgment that it is inconsistent with human rights law to disenfranchise convicted prisoners.

Come on, Britain, if Maine, Vermont, and even Canada can do this, so too can you.

Seriously, this places the lifetime voting ban of convicted felons, a grotesque anti-democratic practice of 14 U.S. states (according to Wikipedia . . . 11 of which, shockingly, are located in the South; I'm certain race does not factor into this policy whatsoever) in context. Of course, as this is state jurisprudence, felon enfranchisement law varies; I am having a difficult time confirming the wiki numbers. However, let it be duly noted that a resident of Mississippi convicted of timber larceny (whatever the hell that is) permanently banned from voting. This heinous crime doesn't appear to be on the Alabama list, so I'd recommend crossing the border and setting up home in Alabama after release . . . but beware of committing treason (against the U.S.A.? The C.S.A.? The State of Alabama?) because that will blacklist you there.

A number of states require the convicted, and released, felon to appeal to the governor for a full pardon or clemency in order to enjoy the restoration of their voting rights. I guess that's because in a number of states the governor doesn't have anything better to do than determine, on a case-by-case basis, the fitness of his or her citizens to cast a ballot.

In attempting to understand how prisoners are treated for apportionment purposes, I found no clear guidelines, but I did find this observation:
"The American incarcerated population, 2,212,475 persons strong, is larger than the population of the fourth-largest city in the United States, commands a greater population than fifteen individual states, and contains more people than the three smallest states combined. If the incarcerated population of the United States were a state of its own, it would qualify for five Electoral College votes."
And two U.S. Senators!

According to this source, 5.3 million Americans are denied the franchise due to past or current felony status. Again I'm stunned to note that there's a race element involved:
African-Americans in particular were disproportionately disenfranchised and living in states where disenfranchisement is permanent even after a felon completes their sentence. Today, an estimated thirteen percent of black men are unable to vote due to a felony conviction.
13%. This is bonkers.

But at least the Europeans (and Canadians!) have a handle on the issue. Those wacky Europeans. What the hell will they dream up next as a human right, I wonder?


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