Britain unveils plans to restore prisoner voting rights

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Britain unveiled plans Friday for prisoners to get the vote for the first time since 1870, although the right will be witheld from those convicted of the most serious offences.

Prime Minister David Cameron's government acted after admitting defeat last month in a five-year battle against a 2005 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which found the ban discriminatory.

Under the plans outlined Friday, which will be enshrined in law next year, offenders serving more than four years will automatically be barred from registering to vote.

The vote will also be restricted to national and European Parliament elections, and prisoners will cast their ballot by post or through a proxy in an area where they previously lived or where they have a local connection.

"The government has brought these proposals forward as a result of a court ruling which it is obliged to implement. This is not a choice, it is a legal obligation," said constitutional reform minister Mark Harper.

"We are ensuring the most serious offenders will continue to be barred from voting.

"If the government failed to implement this judgement, we would not only be in breach of our international obligations but could be risking taxpayers' money in paying out compensation claims."

© 2010 AFP

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