The right to vote is not absolute and can be restricted based on objective and reasonable criteria.
- The right to vote at elections must be established by law and may be subject only to reasonable restrictions, such as setting a minimum age limit for the right to vote.
- Any conditions which apply to the exercise of the rights protected by article 25 should be based on objective and reasonable criteria.
- The object and purpose of the Convention, which is an instrument for the protection of human rights, requires its provisions to be interpreted and applied in such a way as to make their stipulations not theoretical or illusory but practical and effective (see, among many other authorities, United Communist Party of Turkey and Others v. Turkey, 30 January 1998, § 33, Reports 1998-I; Chassagnou and Others v. France [GC], nos. 25088/94, 28331/95 and 28443/95, § 100, ECHR 1999-III; and Lykourezos v. Greece, no. 33554/03, § 56, ECHR 2006-VIII). The right to stand as a candidate in an election, which is guaranteed by Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 and is inherent in the concept of a truly democratic regime, would only be illusory if one could be arbitrarily deprived of it at any moment. Consequently, while it is true that States have a wide margin of appreciation when establishing eligibility conditions in the abstract, the principle that rights must be effective requires that the eligibility procedure contain sufficient safeguards to prevent arbitrary decisions (see Podkolzina v. Latvia, no. 46726/99, § 35, ECHR 2002-II). Although originally stated in connection with the conditions on eligibility to stand for election, the principle requiring prevention of arbitrariness is equally relevant in other situations where the effectiveness of individual electoral rights is at stake (see Namat Aliyev v. Azerbaijan, no. 18705/06, § 72, 8 April 2010), including the manner of review of the outcome of elections and invalidation of election results (see Kovach v. Ukraine, no. 39424/02, § 55 et seq., ECHR 2008-...).
- [P]rovision may be made for depriving individuals of their right to vote and to be elected, but only subject to the following cumulative conditions. ii. it must be provided for by law; iii. the proportionality principle must be observed; conditions for depriving individuals of the right to stand for election may be less strict than for disenfranchising them; iv. The deprivation must be based on ... a criminal conviction for a serious offence. v. Furthermore, the withdrawal of political rights ... may only be imposed by express decision of a court of law.
- The election system therefore must provide clear and narrowly defined criteria concerning the circumstances in which the right to vote can be denied, withdrawn, or suspended. Criteria establishing the definition of universal suffrage (for example, age and citizenship) must be addressed in the constitution and electoral law, and criteria for disqualification (for example, due to mental incapacity or criminal conviction) must be defined in law and should be implemented with judicial involvement.
- The right to vote is not absolute…and may be subject to reasonable restrictions which ‘are not arbitrary and do not interfere with the free expression of the people’s opinion.'