There is an appeal with respect to inmate voting before the Supreme Court of Canada. This ruling will say whether the federal government is justified in denying the right to vote to federal inmates, who should, given that they are the most serious offenders, be the easiest to deny voting privileges. If the federal government is unsuccessful in denying the most serious offender the right to vote, then Alberta=s options would be more clear. It would then be untenable for Alberta to attempt to deny the vote to less serious offenders. Alberta would be wise to wait for the Supreme Court ruling before amending our legislation. Any amended Alberta legislation would be subject to court challenge immediately should the federal government lose at the Supreme Court.
The sad fact is, though, that the province can amend its legislation now, thereby denying democratic rights to some citizens. It will take years for court challenges to the new legislation to make their way through the courts, years in which elections can take place that would not be tainted by inmates voting. Governments are on safe political ground, as there are very few who will defend the democratic rights of serving offenders.
The John Howard Society of Alberta believes that there is no adequate justification for denying incarcerated individuals their democratic right to vote. Denying inmates the right to vote violates the Charter, discriminates against those who are disadvantaged and serves no rehabilitative function. The John Howard Society of Alberta believes that incarcerated individuals should be allowed to exercise their democratic right to vote to increase their sense of responsible citizenship, to state symbolically that offenders are part of society and to reduce the inequity caused by the chance timing of an offender's sentence.