Provisions on the rights of active duty military personnel to vote should be carefully written to avoid abuse and potential disenfranchisement of voters.
- The Court takes note of the Venice Commission’s Code of Good Practices in Electoral Matters, which stresses that military servicemen should preferably vote in ordinary polling stations and notes that safeguards should be put in place to prevent “the risk of superior officers imposing or ordering certain political choices”. The Court agrees that such a risk cannot be taken lightly.
- Military personnel should vote at their place of residence whenever possible. Otherwise, it is advisable that they be registered to vote at the polling station nearest to their duty station.
- Some countries...disqualify military personnel from voting, a practice particularly common in Latin America. Such limitations, provided they have a rational basis, remain proportional and are not used as a device to disenfranchise significant sections of the population, arguably fall within the margin of appreciation left to States. Discriminatory disenfranchisement, however, would violate general principles of international law.
- Where servicemen cannot return home on polling day, they should preferably be registered at polling stations near their barracks. Details of the servicemen concerned are sent by the local command to the municipal authorities who then enter the names in the electoral list. The one exception to this rule is when the barracks are too far from the nearest polling station. Within the military units, special commissions should be set up to supervise the preelection period, in order to prevent the risk of superior officers’ imposing or ordering certain political choices.
- It is common and acceptable for the electoral framework to provide for members of the military and the police to be able to exercise the right to vote while on active duty. Although protecting the right of a member of the military or the police is appropriate, the provisions must be written carefully to avoid abuse.