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Nigerian High Court Rules All Prisoners Have a Right to Vote

Advocates of American "Exceptionalism" generally have little explanation for why the United States, with 5% of the world's population, has 20% of its prisoners, or why it lags behind many other countries in properly preparing its prisoners for release, and why it puts so many roadblocks to rehabilitation in their way.

One of these roadblocks is the denial of the right to vote. Most states and the federal government prevent prisoners from voting while in custody, but many persist in continuing this disenfranchisement even after release. Now a high court in the African country of Nigeria has ruled that even those in custody in that country are permitted to vote.

In that country, a Federal high court sitting in the Edo State capital of Benin, stated that inmates of all prisons in Nigeria have the right to vote in all elections from prison. According to Justice Lima, "any act by the (electoral commission) to deny inmates the right to vote is unconstitutional, illegal, unlawful, null and void, of no effect whatsoever...being an inmate is not an offence that impedes their registration and voting right under section 24 of the Electoral Act."

Barrister Aigbokhan, who represented the successful prisoner plaintiffs, said that the electoral commission's previous denial of the franchise was a violation of human rights, but that, "The judgment is a wedge on the slippery slope of creating second class citizens in Nigeria."

Perhaps correction authorities in the United States can learn from such a decision that society would benefit from permitting even incarcerated prisoners to continue to participate in the basic rights of citizenship like voting.

Source: "Court upholds right of prison inmates to vote," by Sylvester Ugwuanyi, Daily Post, December 18, 2014.

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