3. Letter from Gareth R Thomas MP to the
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
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
24 July 2002