Can vote for criminals in Colorado

New rules for the right to vote in prison

Vienna - Anyone who has been imprisoned for a year or longer in Austria for an intentional crime is excluded from voting during this period and for a further six months afterwards. So it is in the National Council election regulations - for now. As was learned from the office of Interior Minister Maria Fekter (ÖVP) at the Standard's request, this is currently being revised.

This is happening for a good reason: the former television presenter Helmut Frodl, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in 1993, went through all instances from 2002 to assert his right to "freedom of expression" in elections, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) approved Frodl last April and sentenced Austria to compensation payments of 5,000 euros plus any taxes.

Judgment appealed unsuccessfully

Austria appealed against the decision. However, the appeal against the judgment was not allowed, as the Interior Ministry learned on Wednesday. So now there is no other option than a change in the Austrian legal situation, according to Fekter's office.

The Ministry of the Interior was still buttoned up about what innovations this would bring in concrete terms. They want to make the next amendment to the electoral law in the coming months - and the exclusion of prisoners' right to vote is to be revised as well as the postal vote.

Constitutional lawyer Heinz Mayer says that clearly stricter criteria are needed in Austria to deny someone the right to vote: "You cannot simply exclude anyone who has been sentenced to more than a year in prison for an intentional act," says Mayer. "Why shouldn't I be able to vote if, for example, I have committed serious burglary?"

In its ruling last April, the ECHR stated that Austria did not list any explicit goals that it was pursuing by depriving prisoners of their rights. For this reason alone, this regulation does not agree with the right to "free expression of the opinion of the people in the election" (Gudrun Springer, DER STANDARD, print edition, November 4, 2010)