Saturday, 8 May 2010

General Election May 2010 - The right to vote: denied - Ubi jus, ibi remedium

The European Convention on Human Rights (First Protocol) states in Article 3 -"The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature."  Those words do a great deal more than impose a duty on States to hold parliamentary elections.  In the case of Mathieu-Mohin v Belgium (1988) 10 EHRR 1, the European Court of Human Rights held that Article 3 implicitly requires a right to vote in an election for the legislature.  The denial of that right to many hundreds of people has brought shame upon our democratic process.  It was described by one Sheffield lady voter as "terribly undemocratic" and an elderly lady in Manchester's Withington Constituency said she had been "disenfranchised". 

Those who encountered problems at Polling Stations should consider informing the Electoral Commission and LIBERTY of their experience. Mr Geoffrey Robinson QC has suggested that those denied a vote could be entitled to compensation - see Express.  This must be correct.  The European Convention on Human Rights is about rights being effective and not illusory.  An ancient principle of law is that where there is a right there is a remedy ("ubi jus ibi remedium") - see Ashby v White (1703) 92 ER 126 (Holt CJ).  The civil rights organisation LIBERTY also wishes to hear from anyone who was aggrieved.

See The Guardian 7th May 2010.
See Timesonline 9th May 2010 - "Turned away voters told to demand a rerun" -  Comment: For anyone other than the seriously rich, this advice - (from the leader of the Returning Officers) - is a non-starter.

Addendum 14th May:  See the view of Joshua Rozenberg - Law Society Gazette


  1. Why are we that bothered about people who haven't been able to vote? I was fairly comfortable I could make it to a polling station in the 15 hours it was open with plenty of time to spare. Given all the braying from those who have not been able you would have thought it was important to them. If it was why have they not managed to get themselves organised enough to get there in plenty of time?

  2. I agree that the polling stations were open 15 hours and that, on the face of it, is plenty of time. Nevertheless, there were instances of people waiting 2 or more hours which indicates that some polling stations were very badly organised.

    Postal voting (which itself is very problematic) possibly made things at the polling stations better than they might have been otherwise.

    We should be concerned where responsible people make the effort in what would usually be good time to record their vote.