04.02.2016 Prisoners right to vote

04.02.2016 Prisoners right to vote

Article 3 of Protocol N 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights gives a right to individuals to vote.

Both the UK and Russia do not allow prisoners the right to vote, which led to cases being brought against them to the European Court of Human Rights. The ECtHR established that this ban is a violation of the Convention.

In 2005, the ECtHR ruled that a British blanket ban on prisoners’ voting violates Article 3 of Protocol 1 to the Convention. In a recent case of Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia (2013) a similar constitutional ban in Russia was found to be in breach of the Convention.

Neither Hirst No 2 nor Anchugov and Gladkov have been implemented by the respective countries.

However, in October 2015, the European Union’s court has decided that a voting ban on prisoners convicted of serious crimes is lawful. This ruling upholds a ban on a French convicted murderer who was serving a sentence of more than five years from taking part in the European elections.


In Russia the ban on prisoners voting is laid down in the Constitution. Article 32 § 3 of the Russian Constitution states that “Deprived of the right to elect and be elected shall be citizens recognized by court as legally unfit, as well as citizens kept in places of confinement by a court sentence.”

The UK

In the UK there is a blanket ban on prisoners voting.

The UK government could always replace the blanket ban with a selective ban on certain categories of prisoners, for example the most serious criminals. In 2010 the government proposed legislation to restrict the voting ban to those serving sentences of more than four years. However, the House of Commons voted by 234 to 22 against that proposal.

David Cameron again confirmed his refusal to comply with the original 2005 ECtHR ruling that a blanket ban on all prisoners was unlawful.

“Our own law has been tested recently and our supreme court opined that our law was right and that prisoners shouldn’t have the vote, and that’s my view. I’m very clear. Prisoners shouldn’t get the vote.”

Now the UK is the only western European country with a blanket ban on prisoner voting with only Armenia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary and Russia in the Council of Europe imposing similar restrictions.