Are we one man, one vote? No, and we never have been.
"One man, one vote" they say. Hmmm - it's not really like that when it comes to elections, and it never really has been. After a lunchtime discussion yesterday, I started exploring various sites to learn what was going on while I waited for various long backups / downloads / upgrades to run. And I came up with a table listing some of the major changes over the years.
Who has the vote - UK, parliamentary elections.
c1430 - Men who had substantial property, usually in the form of land (local differences).
c1571 - removed Catholics (could no longer own land)
1778 - added Catholic men (as they could now own land again).
1832 - 10 pound worth of property (and male) to vote.
1867 - "All" male householders in towns aged 21 and over could now vote
1884 - "All" male householders in the counties aged 21 and over could now vote
1918 - added women over the age of 30 (but based on property or husband's property)
1918 - Abolished property qualifications for men (so "all" men 21 and over)
1928 - added remaining women on the same terms as men
1969 - "all" men and women aged 18 and over (add 18, 19, 20 year olds)
1985 - add voters who were abroad (by postal vote)
2000 - it became practical for homeless people to register and vote
I have quoted the word "all". It's still not every adult who's in the country, and "all" includes only:
• British Citizens
• Irish or 'qualifying' Commonwealth Citizens who are resident in the UK
Citizens of the remaining EU countries may register, and vote in local elections but not in general elections
and specifically exclude:
• Members of the House of Lords
• Those in prison
• People convicted of electoral malpractice in the last 5 years
• "Idiots" and "lunatics" only during lucid periods
excludes those compulsorily detainees in psychiatric hospitals, for example. Wording enshrined in law!
There's current discussion on some of this - should there be changes?
• Should prisoners have the right to vote?
• Should the voting age be reduced to 16?
And then you have some less mainstream ideas, suggestions and reflections
• Should mothers get extra votes on behalf of their under age children? [link]
• Why continue to disenfranchise members of the House of Lords?
• Is the nationality thing right as it stands? Why does a resident Cypriot get a vote, but not a resident American or Dane?
Plural votes - one person being able to cast several votes at a general election - was still in place 100 years ago. In those days, there were special University seats, as well as town and country seats. Some were qualified to vote in both University and Town seats, and did so. Others with business / property interests that were geographically spread qualified in multiple locations / seats too. I've seen a figure of 7% of votes / voters for 1918; the practise ended in 1928.
Compulsory voting - this is in the law in some countries, and actually enforced across much of South America and in Australia.
Opening a whole can of worms ...
* Some vote based on careful thought. On learning what the candidates are about, attending hustings, reading the manifestos, and much more.
* Some vote on the most trivial of reasons - "He's nice and tall" or "she has a lovely voice"
* Some make their own decisions, other vote based on how Mum / Dad / Older sibling / partner vote.
Should each of these votes really just have equal value?
Doesn't the single vote system encourage the marketing of candidates, decisions based on shallow soundbites, and discourage the candidate who's got the best, but brave and difficult, platform ... the candidate we really need to help make the decisions for our nation? (written 2012-01-26, updated 2012-01-28)
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