Comparative Views on the Right to Vote in International Law: The Case of Prisoners’ Disenfranchisement
Forthcoming in Comparative International Law (Anthea Roberts et al. eds., Forthcoming Oxford University Press).
iCourts Working Paper Series, No. 64
18 Pages Posted: 12 May 2016
Date Written: May 10, 2016
There is a consensus about the existence of an international right to vote in democratic elections. Yet states disagree about the limits of this right when it comes to the case of prisoners' disenfranchisement. Some states allow all prisoners to vote without exception, some disenfranchise all prisoners, and others allow only some of their prisoners to vote. This paper argues that national courts view the international right to vote in three fundamentally different ways: some view it as an inalienable right that cannot be taken away, some view it merely as a privilege that doesn't belong to the citizens, and others view it as a revocable right that can be taken away under certain conditions. The differences in the way states conceive the right to vote imply that any attempt by an international court like the European Court of Human Rights to follow the policies of the majority of the states by using the Emerging Consensus doctrine is inherently problematic.
Keywords: Voting Rights, Prisoners' Disenfranchisement, Emerging Consensus
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