Extending the right to vote

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Commenting on the news that the UK government has been forced by a European Human Rights ruling to grant prisoners the right to vote after 140 years, Simon Barrow, co-direct of the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia, said:

"We long advocated enfranchising people in prison, so today's news that prisoners will be given the right to vote at last is very welcome - though we have yet to see how the government may seek to hedge in that right.

"A move from retributive to restorative justice, as well as a concern for human dignity, suggests that it is morally wrong and socially damaging to deny people in prison any stake in the democratic process.

"Other issues about who gets to participate electorally and what weight is given to their voice follow from this decision.

"Our argument is that the case for a proportional voting system is also at root a moral one about participation and equal political worth.

"Similarly, the case for changing the voting age also needs to be considered. The enthusiasm of many young people and children for having a say in how their society is run - through school elections, civic initiatives and the annual Youth Parliament, for example - shows how important this could be for us all.

"As disillusion continues among large sections of the adult population, reform and renewal of our political institutions and procedures remains vital."