March 3, 2015 Leave a comment
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has refused to order compensation for over 1 015 United Kingdom(UK) inmates who were banned from voting for three years, The Guardian reported.
Despite findings that the UK continued to violate prisoners’ right to partake in elections. And despite,the Strasbourg court’s first finding back in October 2005 that the UK governments’ blanket ban on permitting any prisoner to vote – as illegal.
The court said it was a violation of article three of protocol one to the European convention on human rights, which states: “The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature.”
The prisoners claim that they were prevented from voting in elections of the European parliament on June 9 in 2009, the British parliamentary election of May 6 in 2010 and elections to the Scottish parliament, the Welsh assembly and the Northern Irish assembly on May 5 in 2011″.
“We are in a position where the government appears to take a perverse pleasure in unlawfully breaching the human rights of thousands of its citizens. It should be extremely worrying to all of us that the government seems to have so little regard for its international human rights obligations or the rule of law,” said Sean Humber, head of the human rights department at Leigh Day, who is acting for 554 clients who were imprisoned at the time of the May 2010 general election and refused the right to vote.
While in South Africa, the Section 19(3) of the South African Constitution states: Every adult citizen has the right – (a) to vote in elections for any legislative body established in terms of the Constitution, and to do so in secret…
But this right has not always been extended to prisoners. According to Lydia Young, media facilitator at the Electoral Commission, “The Electoral Act had provisions that made it impossible for prisoners to register and allowed only prisoners sentenced to terms of imprisonment with the option to vote.”
“As part of the process of preparation for national and provincial elections, the Electoral Commission does voter registration in correctional facilities. Ahead of 2014 elections, 14,283 prisoners were registered in the correctional facilities. The South African registration is based on the concept of registration in a voting district of ordinary residence. So those incarcerated were placed in voting district where there ordinarily resident when not in a correctional facility,” said Young.
For purposes of voting, prisoners are deemed to be ordinarily resident in the voting district in which the prison is situated. As one voting services a voting district a mobile unit leaves the voting station for the correctional facility in order to receive votes from those incarcerated. These votes are then put together with the votes cast at the voting station.
According to Young, “As a result the Electoral Commission does not keep a separate count of the votes cast in correctional facilities.”