Limits on the right to vote may be based on residency.
- The law may regulate the exercise of the rights and opportunities referred to in the preceding paragraph [right to participate in government] only on the basis of age, nationality, residence, language, education, civil and mental capacity or sentencing by a competent court in criminal proceedings.
- The States party to the Convention commit themselves to: e) conduct voter registration on the basis of a legislatively established non-discriminatory and effective procedure that envisage such parameters of registration as age, citizenship, place of residence, basic document certifying citizen’s identity.
- As regards restrictions on the exercise of the right to vote abroad based on the criterion of the voter’s place of residence, Convention institutions have in the past accepted several reasons justifying such restrictions: first of all, the presumption that a non-resident citizen is less directly or less continually concerned with his country’s day-to-day problems and has less knowledge of them; secondly, the fact that it is impracticable for the parliamentary candidates to present the different electoral issues to citizens abroad and that non-resident citizens have no influence on the selection of candidates or on the formulation of their electoral programmes; thirdly, the close connection between the right to vote in parliamentary elections and the fact of being directly affected by the acts of the political bodies so elected; and, fourthly, the legitimate concern the legislature may have to limit the influence of citizens living abroad in elections on issues which, while admittedly fundamental, primarily affect persons living in the country (see Hilbe v. Liechtenstein (dec.), no. 31981/96, ECHR 1999-VI ; X and association Y v. Italy, no. 8987/80, Commission decision of 6 May 1981, Decisions and Reports (DR) 24, p. 192 ; and Polacco and Garofalo v. Italy, no. 23450/94, Commission decision of 15 September 1997, DR 90-B, p. 5). More recently the Court held that having to satisfy a residence or length-of-residence requirement in order to have or exercise the right to vote in elections is not, in principle, an arbitrary restriction of the right to vote and is therefore not incompatible with Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (see Doyle v. the United Kingdom (dec.), no. 30158/06, 6 February 2007, and Sitaropoulos and Giakoumopoulos v. Greece [GC], no. 42202/07, § 69, ECHR 2012).
- State reports should indicate whether any groups, such as permanent residents, enjoy [the right to register] on a limited basis, for example, by having the right to vote in local elections or to hold office.
- Residency requirements, if applied, must be imposed to as not to exclude the homeless from the right to vote.
- The Court reiterates that national practices concerning voting rights for expatriates and the exercise of such rights are far from being uniform across the States Parties. Broadly speaking, Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 does not impose on States Parties any obligation to enable citizens resident abroad to exercise their right to vote (see Sitaropoulos and Giakoumopoulos [GC], cited above, §§ 74 and 75). Furthermore, the work of the Venice Commission has shown that withholding or limiting the voting rights of expatriates does not amount to a restriction on the principle of universal suffrage. In fact, the different interests involved should be weighed up, including the State’s choice to enable its expatriate citizens to exercise their voting rights, practical and security considerations relating to the exercise of this right, and the technical arrangements for implementing it.
- A residency requirement has been upheld by the European Commission on Human Rights, for a number of reasons: the assumption that a non-resident citizen is less directly involved or knowledgeable; the impracticability for candidates to present electoral issues to citizens abroad; the need to prevent electoral fraud, the risk of which is increased by postal voting; and finally, the link between representation and the obligation to pay taxes.
- ...[T]here is agreement that it is appropriate to define voter eligibility based upon certain other characteristics: Citizenship, Residency, and Age.
- Reasonable restrictions [on voter registration] include: residence, citizenship, legal detention... criminal conviction.
- [T]he right to vote and to be elected may be accorded to citizens residing abroad.
- In general, these limitations fall within four categories: (1) minimum age requirements; (2) citizenship requirements; (3) residency requirements; and (4) loss of franchise due to mental incapacity, criminal conduct, or other factors. Any limitation or restriction on the right to vote, however, must be scrutinized as to whether it is clearly justified due to exceptional circumstances and whether it is proportionate to the circumstances in question.
- The UN Human Rights Committee found a “seven-year residency requirement deemed to be excessive.
- [T]he following measure prescribed by law or regulations would not be considered discriminatory: measures establishing a reasonable period which must elapse before naturalized persons may exercise their political rights, provided that they are combined with a liberal naturalization policy.
- Voting rights should be based on considerations that include: citizenship; legal age of majority (this may differ from country to country); residency requirements; any other additional grounds for disqualification (eg, prisoners in detention, persons with a criminal record, mentally disadvantaged, and so on).
- Reasonable restrictions [on voting] have included distinctions based on age, citizenship, residency and mental competence.
- ...States should: Establish an effective, impartial and non-discriminatory procedure for the registration of voters; Establish clear criteria for the registration of voters, such as age, citizenship and residence, and ensure that such provisions are applies without distinction of any kind.
- Residency requirements may discriminate against national minorities. Residence may operate in a discriminatory way against refugees or internally displaced persons. Internally displaced persons should be able to exercise their right to vote; where possible, refugees should enjoy some facility to vote.
- Reasonable restrictions may include factors such as residence, citizenship, current incarceration or having been convicted of a crime, and mental incapacity as determined by a court.
- In practice…there is a growing tendency to broaden the franchise, for example, by including overseas residents.
- Reasonable restrictions may include factors such as residence, citizenship, convicted persons in legal detention, and those considered mentally incapacitated by the courts.