So yet again the Government is making a mountain out of a molehill, saying we will leave the EU Human Right framework over giving voting rights to prisoners.
OK, so if we assume that giving people locked up no rights to vote, that they deserve to be un-emancipated while inside, and the UK want to remain inside the framework, then what?
A single MP for HMP, un-whipped or not, would represent an issue & prisoners could at least in theory suddenly have a huge influence during a close vote.
Another way would be to give the prison votes to the constituency where the prison is located. That would be awful as it would be a large number of voters who will never interact with the area they ‘live’ in.
The other way to do it would be exceedingly complex, with votes being split to “home” constituencies and so the overhead would be insane – byelections would need screening and voting and transferring.
Better to have no votes, in my opinion, but without dropping out.
Giving voting to short term prisoners or those within a few months of exit (& how would that work? They might get parole, can you tell before voting time?) merely presents room for further expensive legal challenge.
Instead, solve the issues with where the votes are counted, & what they count for.
For hundreds of years, MPs have been unable to quit their job. Instead, we have a slightly odd tradition of the MP moving seats, and becoming Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead or Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham.
Could a similar idea not be used wherein all prisoners are voting on a similar item?
Hence a legal fiction that allows a vote, but one that never really results in anything changing. Create a job, let’s say Prime Minister. He gets all the votes from all the prisons for his constituency, & that is the one time all prisoners would get to vote.
The PM already has a full security detail, has a safe seat (& even if ousted would switch himself to a new safe seat) & so those votes would count for naught but numbers. (Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh votes would go to the Minister for NI, Scotland or Wales. )
Looking at numbers, the ~1500 NI prisoners would make no difference, same for Wales (No figures separately available) and Scotland (~8000).
Only the English vote night be an issue with 86000 (less the Welsh) possible voters.
This would provide an incentive for the PM to keep prison populations low, & at least vaguely enfranchised. Or perhaps occasionally the PM would get embarrassed by a sudden change in the voting, but hey, that keeps things interesting!
After all, the average constituency size is just 68,175.
Perhaps better to use the votes divided between all the Cabinet constituencies. This would dilute the vote to a manageable level, and keep the most powerful in the country thinking, at least occasionally, of the least powerful. But without giving them too much power.
Clearly, there is no easy answer.