Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Right of prisoners to vote in parliamentary elections

Prisoners in Ireland have a right to be registered in the political constituency where they would normally live if they were not in prison. However, they have no right to be given physical access to a ballot box by temporary release or a postal vote or any other way.

If they happen to be on parole, or temporary release, at the time of an election, they are free to vote where you are registered.

Prisoners rights if thye are on remand are the same as if you were a convicted prisoner.

The Electoral (Amendment) Act 2006 provides procedures that enable prisoners to vote by post. If in prison, a prisoner can register for a postal vote in the area that you would otherwise be living in. If they are already registered to vote in that area and wish to be able to vote from prison then a prisoner should fill out a form called Form RFG. If a prisoner is not already on the register then he, or she, should complete Form RFA4 as well.

United Kingdom

The European Court of Human Rights found in 2005 that the UK’s current ban on all serving prisoners from voting contravenes Article 3 of Protocol No 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In June 2010 the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers expressed ‘profound regret’ that the ban had not been lifted in time for the 2010 general election. 

The Committee of Ministers said that it would draw up a resolution for action if the UK Government failed to give prisoners the right to vote in time for the elections to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2011.

On 20 December 2010 Mark Harper MP, the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, announced that offenders sentenced to a custodial sentence of less than four years will be given the right to vote in UK Westminster Parliamentary and European Parliament elections, unless the judge considered this inappropriate when making the sentence.

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