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April 21, 2004


The South African Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights have both recently addressed the issue of whether states can legitimately prohibit or restrict prisoners' right to vote. Both cases make reference to the judgement of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2002 in the Sauvé case, which struck down the prohibition on prisoner voting in the Federal Election Act (see the news item on this site for November 3, 2002). This remains an important issue in the United States (particularly in a Presidential election year), where many states still deny the vote to prisoners and even ex-prisoners who have completed their sentences. Given the over-representation of black and Hispanic Americans in the U.S. prisoner and ex-prisoner populations, this prohibition raises serious questions of exclusion from the democratic process.

Read a summary or the full text of the judgement in the South African case of Minister of Home Affairs v. Nicro.

Read a summary of the European Court of Human Rights case in Hirst v. The United Kingdom (No. 2) in the British Guardian newspaper.

A summary released by the court registrar can be found here, or if you prefer, read the full text of the case.

Michael Jackson