Prisoners have a right to vote according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Should the incarcerated individuals among our population be allowed to vote? That’s a question on a lot of people’s minds right now. Vermont senator and Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders has made is position crystal clear and he doesn’t need three paragraphs to answer the question.  You either believe in democracy or you don’t and you don’t get to pick and choose which parts of democracy that you are going to adhere to. Not to bring religion into this but it’s a lot like that. If some parts of the bible aren’t appealing to some Christians, they just simple ignore that section and focus on something else they can get behind. The right to vote is treated the same way.

Those that are opposed to the idea of locked up persons voting should perhaps take a look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

The following is an excerpt from the Study Guide: The Right to Vote, published by University of Minnesota Human Rights Center in 2003.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 21 states:

Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.

The role that periodic, free elections play in ensuring respect for political rights also is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, the Charter of the Organization of American States, the African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and many other international human rights documents.

The role that periodic, free elections play in ensuring respect for political rights also is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, the Charter of the Organization of American States, the African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and many other international human rights documents.

Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is the key international guarantee of voting rights and free elections, but its provisions are strongly related to other articles, specifically Article 2 (see below). The ICCPR also includes guarantees of freedom of expression (Article 19), assembly (Article 21), association (Article 22), and non-discrimination (Article 26).

ICCPR, Article 25: Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in Article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;
(c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.

ICCPR, Article 2, paragraph 1: Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

While Article 2 of the ICCPR specifies that voting and participation in elections is a universal right not to be denied because of any “status” individuals around the world are systematically or inadvertently disenfranchised based on their status as a member of a certain group. For example, many nations deal with a gender gap in voting, a phenomenon where one gender is more likely to vote in elections than the other. “Traditional theories in participation pointed to a ‘gender gap’ between men and women, where typically more men than women were interested in politics, and would turn out to vote on polling day. However, recent research seems to point to an ‘inverting’ of the gender gap, where women are demonstrating increasing interest in political and electoral processes.” (From IDEA.) Many nations have attempted to deal with gender gaps in voting and political participation through legislative quotas. Quota systems operate in different ways, but in general they reserve a certain number or percentage of candidacy spots or actual seats in a legislative body for women. While quotas can be a very quick and effective way to address the problem of under-representation of women in government, they are controversial and often raise as many issues about the right to vote as they solve. Legislated quota systems of various forms currently are in effect in France, Argentina, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, and India.

Another example is the disenfranchisement of those who have been convicted of certain crimes. The following example is an excerpt from a 1998 report by Human Rights Watch’s Sentencing Project.

Today, [in the United States] all mentally competent adults have the right to vote with only one exception: convicted criminal offenders. In forty-six states and the District of Columbia, criminal disenfranchisement laws deny the vote to all convicted adults in prison. Thirty-two states also disenfranchise felons on parole; twenty-nine disenfranchise those on probation. And, due to laws that may be unique in the world, in fourteen states even ex-offenders who have fully served their sentences remain barred for life from voting.

[T]he scale of [disenfranchisement laws] in the United States is unparalleled: an estimated 3.9 million U.S. citizens are disenfranchised, including over one million who have fully completed their sentences. The racial impact of disenfranchisement laws is particularly egregious. Thirteen percent of African American men—1.4 million—are disenfranchised, representing just over one-third (36 percent) of the total disenfranchised population.
Individuals around the world continue to struggle for full enforcement of the ICCPR’s Article 25. Central to this struggle are the many international human rights documents that mirror the principles of Article 25.

It really can’t be much clearer, all human beings have the right to vote.

Back to that question. Do you believe in democracy along with free and fair elections or don’t you? Bernie Sanders does, because it’s the right thing to do.


Click on the banner below to support us on Patreon.


 no name