People with intellectual disabilities in Spain allowed to vote in EU elections

Written by Martin Banks on 8 May 2019 in News
News

Around 100,000 people in Spain with intellectual disabilities will be allowed to vote in the upcoming European elections for the first time following a change in the country’s legislation.

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This comes after the Constitutional Commission of the Spanish Congress of Deputies gave the green light to reform of the country’s electoral system, which will restore the right to vote to thousands of persons, mostly people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

They had previously been barred from voting in Spain because their capacity had been, according to the jargon, “legally modified.”

The reform partly addresses demands made by organisations representing disabled people in Spain, including Plena Inclusión and its #MyVoteCounts campaign.


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For seven years, Plena Inclusión said it has sought to raise awareness among the public and authorities in Spain about the discrimination that people with intellectual or developmental disabilities face by being removed from the electoral census and denied their right to vote.

As a way of thanks for the outcome and what a spokesman for the organisation called “this important reform” people with an intellectual disability gave Spanish deputies a flower after the vote.

Plena Inclusión says it will now direct its attention towards “demanding that all information about the electoral process can be easier to understand.”

“Despite the fact that everybody has the right to vote, there still are people who cannot do it on an equal basis with others,” said the organisation.

“Despite the fact that everybody has the right to vote, there still are people who cannot do it on an equal basis with others” Plena Inclusión

Reacting to the Spanish vote, Jyrki Pinomaa, President of Inclusion Europe, a Brussels-based group which campaigns for the rights of disabled people, told this website, “The Spanish case shows how the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) can be a powerful tool to advocate for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities.”

“Taking away the right to vote from people with disabilities in fact violates the Convention, which all EU countries and also the EU itself have ratified. Fortunately, more and more countries are now opening up the right to vote to people under guardianship, for example Germany and France.”

Pinomaa added, “The next step should be to make elections accessible, for example by using easy-to-read language and allowing support persons in the polling station.”

The voting rights of people with disabilities has also been championed in recent times by, among others, the EESC.

A recent EESC report entitled, "Real rights of persons with disabilities to vote in the European elections", claims that despite many binding legal documents protecting the rights of such persons in the EU, “millions” of them will not be able or allowed to cast their votes next month or may at least have difficulties doing so.

“The Spanish case shows how the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) can be a powerful tool to advocate for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities” Jyrki Pinomaa, President of Inclusion Europe

The EESC, based in Brussels, said it is estimated that some 800,000 EU citizens suffering from mental health problems or with an intellectual disability will be deprived of their right to vote on account of national rules that are in force in 16 Member States, which the EESC says is “particularly worrisome.”

In nine EU countries, such persons automatically lose their right to vote when their legal capacity is reduced or when they have a guardian appointed.

Under seven national laws, their voting ability is individually assessed by either courts or medical boards.

The report’s author, Polish EESC member Krzysztof Pater said, "This report presents an ugly face of Europe – the reality which is far away from our expectations, from basic international legal acts and political declarations."

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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