The Prime Minister David Cameron once told a fellow MP that the mere thought of it made him feel "physically ill" but yesterday the European Court of Human Rights confirmed that the UK will need to relax its blanket ban over prisoners' voting rights.
The ruling came in the case of Scoppola v Italy.
Mr Scoppola was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2002 for murdering his wife after an argument over a broken mobile phone.
The Italian court heard how he had attempted to strangle her with the cord of their telephone whilst she rang police, before shooting her at close range when she attempted to flee with their children. He also shot and injured his son who had come back to the family home to help his dying mother.
Mr Scoppola brought his case to challenge an Italian law which imposes a life ban on all prisoners serving sentences of five years or longer from running for public office. The ban also forfeits their right to vote for the same period. Prisoners serving shorter sentences are given shorter bans and those serving sentences of less than three years are free to vote.
The UK operates a blanket ban on prisoners' voting whilst they are in jail under section 3 of the Representation of the People Act 1983.
This ban was already threatened by the ECHR judgment in Hirst v United Kingdom which ruled that a blanket ban was incompatible with human rights law.
Yesterday, the Grand Chamber of the ECHR ruled by 16 to one that the Italian law was not incompatible with Mr Scoppola's convention rights, because it was not a blanket ban and was therefore proportionate.
The Scoppola verdict effectively supports the ECHR's previous judgment in the Hirst case, and means that the UK Government now has just six months to draw up new legislation to give some prisoners the right to vote whilst in jail. At present the ECHR has some 2500 cases pending from UK prisoners challenging the ban.
The verdict drew criticism from across the UK political spectrum.
Tory MP David Davis told the Financial Times: "This is a matter that should be decided by a democratic, not a judicial, process."
Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said that Labour had always opposed prisoners' right to vote.
"On these kinds of issues, the European Court should be giving far more discretion to individual countries and this is an important reform that needs to be implemented," he said.
Court rules prisoners have right to vote (Financial Times - free signup)
UK given prisoner votes deadline (Google, Press Association)