Can worker crimes exist

Why Let Convicted Criminals Vote?

According to a 1998 HRW report

The United States may have the world's most restrictive criminal disenfranchisement laws. We know of no democracy other than the United States where convicted criminals who have served their sentences are nonetheless deprived of their rights for life. Some countries limit voting for a short time after the sentence has expired: Finland and New Zealand, for example, limit voting for several years after the sentence has ended, but only for people convicted of buying or selling votes or of corrupt practices. Some countries have deprived prisoners of their rights based on the gravity of the crime or the length of their sentence. Others, e.g. B. Germany and France only allow disenfranchisement if it is imposed by a court order.

In many countries, people in prison are allowed to vote. According to research by Penal Reform International, prisoners in countries as diverse as the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Israel, Japan, Kenya, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and Zimbabwe can vote. In Germany, the law obliges the prison authorities to encourage prisoners to exercise their voting rights and to facilitate the voting process. The only prisoners who are not allowed to vote are those convicted of electoral crimes or crimes (such as treason) that undermine “democratic order” and whose judicial conviction expressly includes disenfranchisement.

There's a BBC story out there with more details on where and how prisoners can vote: but it doesn't say much about the arguments for it.

There is already a question on Politics.SE which examines the reasons for the US restrictions. What I want to ask here is (basically the opposite): What are the reasons for not being as restrictive as the countries mentioned by HRW above e.g. B. Why allow people in prison (regardless of their release) to vote? Granted, it will be difficult to conduct a global poll, but I would like to hear some of the arguments put forward in countries where criminal voting laws are the least restrictive.


@ Indigochild: Yeah, I'd appreciate that. I know (well, found out in the meantime) that the ECHR has placed blanket bans on prisoner voting in violation of Article 3, Protocol 1; But they also allow partial bans as long as they consider the bans to be proportionate. I'm not sure what your opinion is on post-conviction bans ... could be the same. Article 3 is quite broad, so that the ECHR has given considerable leeway in its interpretation.

Race of lightness in orbit

You don't have to find a reason to give voice to people, you have to find a reason to take them away. This is a fundamental principle of your company. It is not?


A convicted criminal is not necessarily currently in jail. "Why do some countries allow Prisoners to vote? "- Also:" As of 2012, only Florida, Kentucky and Virginia will impose a lifetime denial of voting rights for all citizens with a criminal offense. "

David Richerby

Your title asks about people convicted of a crime, but the main part of your question seems to be about people who are currently in jail. These are two different questions - which one do you ask?


This is not the right question in my opinion because it asks us to prove a negative act in essentially different terms. When you talk about rights and whether a group should have them, you should have a good reason to take away rights, not the other way around. Conversely, to ask, as you did here, means that the right to vote should not be a citizen's right and that citizens are only actively granted for “good behavior” (e.g. not convicted of a crime). In reality this is not the case; In modern democracies, citizens have the right to vote. It is a right!


The most banal answer is civil rights protection against the following algorithm:

  1. Win a general election.
  2. Pass any law that disproportionately locks up your opponents' supporters.
  3. Benefit.

This is relatively difficult to prevent by other constitutional means, since the law does not have to be exclusively or primarily political in order to have an effect.

Philipp ♦

Comments are not intended for extensive discussion. This conversation has been moved to the chat.


  1. Democracy: Criminals (including those in prison) are affected by the results of the political process. If they are allowed to vote, they have the opportunity to hear their opinion.

    If you want to signal criminals that they are not full members of society, do so coherently: convicted criminals cannot vote, but they also have to pay less tax.

    On the flip side, when a demographic feels they are being discriminated against (with or without a reason) and you take away the legal tools they need to tackle that discrimination, the likely outcome is great dissatisfaction and loss of attachment to the law system.

  2. Rehabilitation: An important part of the penitentiary system should be the rehabilitation of the perpetrator so that he can become a law abiding citizen. But when you get out of jail tell them that nothing as innocuous as a vote can be entrusted to them.

    And before you say (and please provide evidence if you do) that "criminals vote for criminals," we should remember that the voting results of law-abiding citizens are far from outstanding, and when the criminals vote for a terribly poor candidate vote Your votes will be canceled by the mass of good citizens who vote for "good" candidates.

    And of course it has often been explained here how bad it is to prevent low-IQ people from voting, even if they are likely to vote "badly". Criminals shouldn't make a difference.

  3. End of Punishment: A lifetime restriction will mark former convicts for life. Perhaps it has been 50 years since you committed your crime and you have realized since then, but you still have the token of your belief to remind you.

  4. It's useless as a deterrent: if someone is willing to commit a crime that could result in one (or twenty) years in prison ... do you think losing the right to vote will make a difference?


"As harmless as a vote"? I've always thought that politically it wasn't much more powerful.


These sound reasonable, but is there any evidence that this is the real, factual reason why criminals are allowed to vote?


@WhatRoughBeast slogans are good for Twitter, but shouldn't be accepted critically. If you vote and lose your option, your vote is little more than a sign of support. If you vote and your option wins, your vote is just one of the voices from which your option has won. Collective vote is important, a single, individual vote doesn't mean that much to the bottom line (aside from having personal aspects of the sense of representation and being part of a system where your opinion is counted even when it doesn't win).


Criticism should also not be accepted uncritically. While your objection is valid, it ignores some things. First, the aggregate cannot be formed without the individual. Start casting individual votes and you'll soon have an overall effect. And elections can depend on remarkably small voting differences, so a single (or some) vote (s) can matter - and there's no way of telling when the franchise will be denied if the denied vote would have been important. Would you be best pleased if your own rights were denied because "it probably doesn't matter"?


@WhatRoughBeast in the United States you might be right. With over 2 million people in prison (out of a population of + -325 million) this is not a negligible percentage. In most developed countries, the incarceration rate is much lower and those incarcerated are unlikely to vacillate and choose. That being said, there are still arguments for allowing them to vote (see other answers) and needless to say they are just a small group that will refuse them to vote.


Here are some actual arguments put forward in cases around the world, taken from a paper focusing on the Irish case:

  • Israel: After Yigal killed Amir Rabin, there was a lawsuit demanding that Amir's voting rights be restricted. The Israeli Supreme Court declined to state that Amir's imprisonment was his sentence and that denying the right to vote "will shake the very foundation of all fundamental rights." So I read this when they saw it as an inalienable human right.

  • South Africa (after apartheid): There was no law prohibiting prisoners from voting, but there was no voting in prisons either. There was one case in 2003 where the government argued that "the provision of voting for convicted prisoners in these circumstances would send the wrong message to the public that the government is a criminal". However, the Chief Justice of the SA rejected this argument with the following words:

    It can hardly be assumed that the government has the right to disenfranchise prisoners in order to improve their image. Nor can it reasonably be argued that the government has the right to deprive convicted prisoners of valuable rights that they retain in order to correct a public misunderstanding about their true attitudes towards crime and criminals. (Minister of the Interior versus Nicro, CCT 3/4, 2004)

  • Canada (2002); The Canadian Supreme Court rejected it by 5 to 4 votes

    the government's argument for denying inmates the right to vote because of some “vague and symbolic objectives” to strengthen civic responsibility and respect for the rule of law. But on the contrary; Denial of the right to vote would not promote civic responsibility, as the government had argued, but it was "more likely to send messages that undermine respect for the law and democracy than messages that reinforce those values". The Supreme Court ruled that it "could not allow elected officials to disenfranchise any part of the population" (Sauvé v Canada, 2002).

So again an argument that it is an inalienable right so that not even a majority could remove it from a group.

  • In contrast, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found in 2004 that the right to vote (and the right to vote) is not absolute. However, they ruled that blanket bans (such as: everyone in jail, a rule the UK had) violated Article 3 of Protocol 1, the right to free elections. There have been a number of cases at the ECHR since then; In a contrasting case, the ECHR found that the Italian laws providing for a (temporal) loss of voting rights in relation to the main sentence / imprisonment of the crime were in order. But they also decided against the more comprehensive regulations of Russia or Bulgaria. The UK has passed a "face rescue" policy that allows a very small number of prisoners to vote to comply with the ECHR letter. This was a recent development; It remains to be seen whether the ECHR will see this as sufficient. Unlike the UK, Ireland passed a law in 2006 allowing prisoners to vote by post (reference was made specifically to the 2004 ECHR judgment against the UK). In the parliamentary debates on the law, not a single opposition was raised (in principle). In fact, the parliamentary opposition was more in favor of the law than the government in the debates. It is noteworthy that there has been no blanket prohibition against the election of prisoners in Irish law since 1963 (when some laws with such a prohibition in 1870 and 1923 were abolished), but facilities have not been provided either. And to round off this EU discussion, unlike Israel, some European countries (Germany and some Nordic) allow the elimination of voting rights for politically motivated (e.g. terrorist) crimes, but not for most of the others. In a limited decision (as it did not deal with blanket bans) in 2015, the ECJ ruled that a ban on voting against a French citizen for life under a law that is no longer the current law in France will still not be violated the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The reason given by the Court of Justice was that, although voting is a fundamental right, it can nevertheless be restricted provided that the restriction is "proportionate in that it takes into account the nature and gravity of the crime committed and the length of the sentence". .

It is certainly no coincidence that among the countries that support the least amount of restrictions, e.g. B. South Africa or Ireland, had a significant history of political prisoners.

Martin Bonner

ZA + IE: More precisely, political prisoners from a group that then came to power .

Keith McClary

One study (can't find it) found that Canadian prisoners tend to vote for right-wing "Law and Order" parties.


Some points not addressed in the other answers:

Criminals are not uniformly of one party. In certain cases, Reformed criminals or even un Reformed criminals could be much smarter voters who are less likely to be seduced than the innocent. For example:

  • Suppose a business criminal employs some labor criminals to commit an illegal act. The labor criminals are caught and sentenced, but they get no help from their boss who has a great lawyer and who goes for walks.

    Later, the white collar criminal ran in his flawless Criminal records, maybe on a crime-fighting platform. The general public may believe that he is honest as he claims. His former co-workers know better and would him No way choose. Through disenfranchisement, the nation eludes wiser voices.

    Before running for office, the same white collar criminal also interacted with all sorts of underworld people who know what he is - drug dealers, pimps etc. To them, he's a necessary evil, but a very disgusting customer. They may also have a criminal record, but would love to do their part to keep this man out of office.

  • Many criminals appreciate the law and know that their crimes are only profitable because relatively few people commit them. Some raise children who are unaware of their parents' misdeeds. You don't necessarily want one general Lawlessness and therefore hope to vote for better candidates than themselves.
  • Ex-scammers are a good counterbalance to the naive extremist Vlad The Impaler types.

Note: This Q. uses the verb allow, which implies a point of view that is more congenial for monarchies than for democracies. A less monarchical formulation could be: "Why uphold the convicts' right to vote?" or more controversial "Why not allow the state to violate the convicts' right to vote?"


These sound reasonable, but is there any evidence that this is the real, factual reason why criminals are allowed to vote?


@indigochild, sorry, (currently ...), this partial answer cannot connect the above points to the politics of any particular nation. Pending, maybe ... Re "... ** the reason ..." : Policies are usually regulated by law for many reasons; Since that OP none single Reason, this use of the specific article appears unnecessarily restrictive.


@agc, "I'd love to hear some of the arguments put forward in countries that have the least restrictive laws for voting criminals." If you could find evidence of the above reasons attributed to other countries, I think it would improve this answer.


Citizens convicted of crimes do not stop being citizens and arbitrarily start being criminals, and voting is not a privilege: it is a civic duty. It makes sense that the standard should be to uphold an individual's civil liberties so that they can fulfill their greater duties as a citizen, unless (as in the case of France, Germany and other countries where a judge in the event of a serious Decision to withdraw the license, politically motivated crimes ) the disenfranchisement is directly relevant to its transgression.