Violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 ECHR due to the applicants' inability to vote in two parliamentary elections for the Bulgarian Parliament as convicted prisoners.
Art. 3, Prot. 1 ECHR
1. Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the ECHR does not per se preclude the imposition of restrictions on the electoral rights of an individual who has, for example, grossly abused a public position or whose conduct has threatened to undermine the rule of law or democratic foundations. However, when the deprivation of the right to vote affects a group of persons in general, automatically and indiscriminately, solely on the basis that they are serving a prison sentence, irrespective of the length of the sentence and the nature or seriousness of their crimes and individual circumstances, this is not compatible with Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 ECHR.
2. The severe measure of disqualification from voting should not be used lightly and the principle of proportionality requires a discernible and sufficient link between the sanction and the conduct and circumstances of the individual concerned. In the present case, the Bulgarian legislation, which enshrines the deprivation of the right to vote for individuals serving a prison sentence, takes no account whatsoever of the seriousness of the offence committed or the length of the prison sentence, but has a generalised application, which, as such, cannot be compatible with the right enshrined in Article 3, Protocol 1 ECHR.
(Eight inmates of the Pazardzhik Prison in Bulgaria had appealed to the ECHR against the provision of the Bulgarian Electoral Law, which indiscriminately deprived all persons serving their prison terms of imprisonment of the right to vote. In the present case, prisoners had not been able to exercise their right to vote actively during the parliamentary elections in 2021).