Prisoners’ voting rights and the rule of law

Once again, the Court has been called upon to decide on a case regarding prisoners’ disenfranchisement. In Frodl v. Austria, the applicant, convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, was denied inclusion in the electoral register on the basis of Section 22 of the National Assembly Election Act which provides that ‘anyone who has been convicted by a domestic court of one or more criminal offences committed with intent and sentenced with final effect to a term of imprisonment of more than one year shall forfeit the right to vote.’

In 2005, the Court had ruled against a blanket restriction on prisoners’ voting rights in Hirst v. the United Kingdom (no. 2). In finding a breach of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1, the Court emphasized that the disenfranchisement in the United Kingdom was a “blunt instrument” applied to all convicted prisoners, irrespective of the length of their sentences and irrespective of the nature or gravity of their offences and their individual circumstances.

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