6 years ago a British prisoner called John Hirst went to the European Court of Human Rights demanding that our government give him and his fellow inmates the right to vote. The court ruled that our blanket ban violated the Human Rights Act, and ordered the government to make the necessary changes.
I cannot, in good conscience, exercise my legally-guaranteed right to participate in the democratic process when tens of thousands of Britons are illegally deprived of theirs. For that reason, I will be staying at home come election day. Not out of apathy, nor out of a lack of available alternatives, but as a small protest against a big injustice.
I support his cause, and side with the European Court of Human Rights in their call for the blanket ban to be lifted. But I must respectfully disagree with his actions.
Voting is not some grand moral duty – and for most people it won’t even be the most political thing they do that year – but I feel that not voting for this reason is not the best way to register a protest.
Neil’s eventual elected representative won’t know he didn’t vote unless Neil writes to him or her. Likewise, in his representative’s eyes Neil not voting may not grant him greater legitimacy in his campaign, but less.
That said, I agree with his cause and I thought I’d say why. Chris posted on something relevant on Saturday:
The law does not ban things – at least not directly – but rather changes incentives. And these changes might not have wholly desirable effects.
On average  people commit crimes because they think the outcomes of committing the crime are preferably to the outcomes of not committing the crime.
One of the things that contributes to how expensive a crime is would be the likelihood of getting caught and the severity of the punishment if this happened. Losing the vote is not going to have any impact on how likely it is someone is caught. Neither is the potential withdrawal of this right oging to have anything other than a very marginal effect on this because voting is going to be a very small part of their life. Even here, we are assuming that the person committing the crime is aware they will lose the vote.
Voting is almost irrelevant on the outside world. But one of the purposes of prison is to rehabilitate because 1) doing so is cheaper than releasing someone only to lock them up again in a few years, and 2) rehabilitating is better for everyone involved because it will result in less crime. In the boring, mundane and repetitive life of a prisoner voting offers a connection to the outside world and an opportunity to engage constructively which I think will help rehabilitation, so I support it.
What is offered here is a purely pragmatic reason on why I (and you should) support this aspect of penal reform. I also think that making morality a condition for voting, and criminality a proxy for morality is deeply wrong, but that would be for another post.
 I say on average to exclude crimes of passion which are most definitely not rational calculations.