Joint Committee On Human Rights Twenty-Sixth Report

3. Letter from Gareth R Thomas MP to the Chairman


Thank you for your letter of 16th July, which I received on 17th July.

A number of democratic states already have significant compulsory voting provisions: for example, Belgium and Greece, (both within the European Union and therefore presumably also affected by the European Convention on Human Rights). In addition a comparison can surely be made between the state's right to levy taxes and a requirement to attend a polling station at election time. There could be any number of objections on grounds of conscience, religion etc to how Britain's taxes are spent. Surely the requirement to pay tax is much more demanding in terms of its impact on our rights than the, at worst, minimum requirement to attend a polling station once every five years.

A Compulsory Voting Bill could allow for a series of exemptions from its provisions on religious grounds, age or disability etc. Consultation on the details of exemptions would clearly be necessary if there were a serious prospect of legislation soon.

I think in particular there should be greater debate about exceptions on conscientious on philosophical objections. How, for example, do you prove conscientious or philosophical objections were the reason you didn't vote? If the basic requirement to prove a deeply held conscientious, religious or philosophical objection to having to attend a polling station.

I hope this is helpful. I am grateful for the Committee's interest.

24 July 2002

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