According to ITV:
The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has unanimously agreed to recommend:
Online voting (including on smart phones)
Quicker ways of registering to vote (including on the day of an election)
A huge programme of devolution as well as mandatory voting
Extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds
Where to begin with the wrongness?
I’m more-or-less in favour of giving sixteen and seventeen year-olds the vote. I don’t really care one way or another, but fine,
Huge programme of devolution — show me the details. I don’t like the “DevoManc” stitch-up, but I’m entirely in favour of proper devolution.
But there are two big, HUGE, problems here for me — two problems so massive that I am actually angry and wanting to punch something.
The first is compulsory voting. I am absolutely, utterly, in favour of everyone who has the ability to vote using their vote. You won’t find a bigger supporter of the democratic process than me anywhere in the world. But I am utterly in favour of people CHOOSING to use their vote. It is utterly abhorrent to force anyone to take part in the process. There are many people with strongly-held convictions that stop them from participating in elections, whether because they believe the system to be illegitimate and that their participation adds a veneer of legitimacy, or because they hold religious beliefs that forbid them from taking part in secular government. To force them to take part in something that goes against their conscience is something no civilised society should do.
There are also, though, those who just can’t be bothered — surely they should be compelled to vote?
Firstly, because of the harm principle — “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” (sorry for the sexist language — quoting John Stuart Mill). Refusing to vote causes no-one any harm, so no power should be exercised to force people to do it. That, to me, is an absolute.
But also because from a purely pragmatic point of view, people who can’t be bothered to vote will tend to have uninformed opinions, and to vote frivolously, because they don’t think their vote matters — if they thought it mattered, they’d vote.
So compulsory voting forces people to go against their deepest convictions, weakens the democratic process, and does so for no actual gain.
I have voted in every election since I turned eighteen — every council election, every EU election, every stupid local referendum about mayors or speed cameras that gets ignored anyway, all of them. I believe exercising my democratic rights to be hugely important. But should this rule be brought in, I would consider it my duty as a liberal and a democrat to take part in peaceful civil disobedience and refuse to vote. I’m a liberal, and I’m against this sort of thing.
But I wouldn’t even need to refuse to vote, it turns out, because the committee plans to take my vote away from me, by making it trivially easy to steal, or for someone to coerce me into voting for a candidate I don’t support. The introduction of online voting would be an utter disaster — as Dave Page puts it, “verifiable, anonymous, online — pick two”. Read his post — he made all the points I would have made about online voting a month ago. Basically, if you want to have online voting, you either give up the secret ballot, give up ever being able to check that the vote you think you cast actually went to the person you wanted to vote for, or (most likely) both.
This cretinous, foetid, outrage of a plan is what you get when you have a constitutional committee consisting of nine Labservative MPs, an SDLP member who might as well be Labour, and Jeremy Browne, the single most authoritarian Lib Dem MP in Parliament. Please God let these proposals be shredded, because as it is if they get accepted we might as well give up any hope of ever having a functioning democracy in this country.