International Comparison of Felon Voting Laws


Globe The chart below presents an overview of how 45 countries regulate the ability of felons to vote in prison, out of prison, or not at all.

The United States, Belgium, Germany, and Iceland have disenfranchisement laws which vary based on specific factors, such as the felon's state of residence or the type of crime committed. State laws, not federal laws, govern felon voting in the United States. These varied voting regulations have necessitated the listing of those countries in two categories, as footnoted beneath chart. Sources and source documents are also provided below.
  No Restriction
(felons can vote even while in prison)
Selective Restriction
(some felons may be banned from voting while in prison)
Complete Ban on Voting While in Prison
(felons can vote upon release from prison)
Postrelease Restrictions
(felons are banned from voting even after release from prison)
21 Countries 14 Countries 10 Countries 4 Countries
1. Argentina X
2. Armenia X
3. Australia X
4. Austria X  
5. Belgium X X1
6. Bosnia   X
7. Brazil X
8. Bulgaria X
9. Canada X
10. Chile X
11. Croatia X
12. Czech Republic X
13. Denmark X
14. Estonia X
15. Finland X    
16. France X
17. Germany X X2
18. Greece X
19. Hungary X
20. Iceland X X3
21. India X
22. Ireland X
23. Israel X
24. Italy X
25. Latvia X  
26. Lithuania X
27. Luxembourg X  
28. Macedonia X
29. Malta X
30. New Zealand X
31. Norway X  
32. Poland   X
33. Portugal X  
34. Romania X  
35. Russia X
36. San Marino   X
37. Serbia X
38. Slovenia X
39. Spain X  
40. South Africa X
41. Sweden X
42. Switzerland X
43. United States X4 X4
44. United Kingdom X
45. Ukraine X
  21 14 10 4
  No Restriction
(felons can vote even while in prison)
Selective Restriction
(some felons may be banned from voting while in prison)
Complete Ban on Voting While in Prison
(felons can vote upon release from prison)
Postrelease Restrictions
(felons are banned from voting even after release from prison)
 

1 Belgium bans felons from voting after release if sentence was over seven years.
2 Germany bans felons from voting only in rare cases if ordered by the court.
3 Iceland bans from voting those felons whose prison sentence is at least four years.
4 The United States bans felons from voting in some states but not in others. Two states (Maine and Vermont) permit felons to vote while in prison. For a full listing of US state laws view our chart State Felon Voting Laws.


Sources:

1. Brandon Rottinghaus, PhD, "Incarceration and Enfranchisement: International Practices, Impact, and Recommendations for Reform" (209KB) , www.ifes.org, July 1, 2003 [Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdon, Ukraine]

2. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), "Out of Step with the World: An Analysis of Felony Disenfranchisement in the US and Other Democracies" (647KB) , www.aclu.org, May 2006 [Austria, Bosnia, Finland, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal]

3. Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 (214KB) , legislation.govt.nz, Dec. 15, 2010 [New Zealand]

4. Isobel White, "Prisoners' Voting Rights" (290KB) , www.parliament.uk, Nov. 6, 2012 [Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, San Marino, Spain]