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Russia: Persons Under House Arrest Will Be Allowed to Vote

(Dec. 11, 2018) Russian citizens placed under house arrest will be allowed to vote according to a law approved by the Federation Council (lower house of the Federal Assembly) on December 5, 2018. (Citizens Placed Under House Arrest Will Be Able to Vote—State Duma], RAPSI (Nov. 22, 2018) (in Russian); Law No. 1063338-6 on Introducing Amendments into Selected Acts of the Russian Federation (Concerning the Procedures for Participating in Referendums Outside of Precinct Buildings), State Duma website (in Russian).)

The Law was initiated by the Legislative Assembly of one of Russia’s provinces, Ulyanovsk oblast. Answering questions from the Duma floor, one of the initiators of the Law, the chairman of the Ulyanovsk provincial Legislative Assembly, underscored the significance of the fact that persons placed under house arrest would be able to vote in elections and referendums in the same way as those who are jailed during criminal investigations. (Citizens Placed Under House Arrest Will Be Able to Vote—State Duma, supra.)

The Law institutes a new procedure whereby a person placed under house arrest can vote outside the precinct buildings using an absentee ballot on the basis of a proxy issued by the individual under arrest and received by a trusted person. (Bill on Enhancement of Rights of Persons Placed Under House Arrest Passes in First Reading, DUMA TV (July 4, 2018) (in Russian).) Under the Law the electoral commissions must supply mobile ballot boxes to facilitate voting by persons placed under house arrest. (Federal Law on Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Rights to Participate in the Referendum of Citizens, No. 67-FL, June 12, 2002, as amended, website (in Russian).)

According to the Law’s initiators, this new procedure was needed because the national passports of those who are under arrest or investigation are seized by the police, and passports serve as a mandatory voting ID for all Russian citizens. (Federal Law on Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Rights to Participate in the Referendum of Citizens, No. 67-FL.) Russians sentenced to imprisonment by a court judgment do not have voting rights during the course of their imprisonment. (CONSTITUTION OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION art. 32(3), Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.) While previous legislation protected voting rights of jailed suspects under investigation, it was silent about those who were placed under house arrest during the investigation process and before final sentencing by the court. (Federal Law on Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Rights to Participate in the Referendum of Citizens, No. 67-FL, art. 4(3).)

Despite the fact that the law passed easily in the Russian legislature, it was the subject of some criticism. In particular, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party expressed the opinion that constant amendments and patches of electoral legislation are not sufficient—drafting of a new electoral code is long overdue. (State Duma Allows Persons Placed Under House Arrest to Vote, INTERFAX (Nov. 22, 2018).)

The Russian Constitution provides that, for the Law to be promulgated, it must be signed by the president of the Russian Federation within 14 days.  (CONSTITUTION OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION art 107.)