Constitutional Court rules against automatic loss of voting right in incapacitation cases

26-07-2010

The Constitutional Court has ruled that Czechs who were stripped of their legal capacity due to conditions such as mental retardation and dementia will not automatically loose their right to vote. Rather, courts will now have to determine on a case-by-case basis whether mentally challenged or ill citizens should be allowed to keep that right. But some experts believe that the verdict still leaves plenty of questions unresolved

Some 25,000 adults in the Czech Republic are legally incapacitated. Most often, legal incapacitation aims to protect mentally challenged people from making bad financial choices or signing legal contracts which they do not understand.

Until recently, however, losing one’s legal capacity would also go hand in hand with losing some constitutional rights, such as the right to vote. Now, the Czech Constitutional Court has issued a ruling that will most likely reverse this automatic loss. Judge Miloslav Výborný delivered the verdict.

Miloslav VýbornýMiloslav Výborný “The fundamental mistake up to now has been that in day-to-day legal practice, judges did not take into account constitutional rights, such as the right to vote, when ruling in incapacitation cases.”

Some judges and legal experts consider the ruling a breakthrough, since it forces courts to examine on a case-by-case basis the question of whether a legally incapacitated person should or should not be able to vote.

Maroš MatiaškoMaroš Matiaško However, others believe that the issue still hasn’t been resolved completely. Maroš Matiaško is a lawyer with the human rights NGO Liga Lidskych Prav.

“This is only a small victory, because the problematic paragraphs of the electoral law have not been removed by the constitutional court’s verdict. There is no fail-proof way for either judges or psychologists to determine whether someone is mentally capable of voting or not. So that is a big challenge for both the Czech judiciary and the psychiatric system.”

26-07-2010