Prisoners had the vote in 1950!

Recently there was a big debate concerning whether or not prisoners should be allowed to vote in political elections. The final decision was that they should not. I thought this was a new issue, raised by some prisoners hoping to take advantage of human rights legislation, so I was surprised to come across a snippet in The Citizen of 20 February 1950, which read:

“Many prisoners in Gloucester Gaol and at the prison-without-bars, Leyhill, have taken advantage of the facilities granted for recording their votes in the general election by post”.

I investigated this further, using the British Newspaper Archive website, and found that it was indeed true that prisoners were allowed to vote in the 1950 General Election. The Western Morning News (3 Feb 1950) reported that the Home Office had decided that men and women who had entered prison since 10 June 1949, who were serving terms of no more than 12 months, were entitled to a postal vote in the election. The Hull Daily Mail (8 Feb 1950), stated that by the terms of the second schedule of the Representation of the People Act (1949), if a prisoner was on the electoral register and had not been disqualified, then there was no statutory provision which debarred that prisoner from having the right to vote by post.

I haven’t gone into this subject any later than 1950, but I presume that this legal loop-hole was dealt with later on, so that this situation did not arise in future general elections.

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