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People under full guardianship to be granted the right to vote in Germany

On February 21st 2019, the German Federal Constitutional Court has published its decision that stripping people under full guardianship from their voting rights is unconstitutional. The resolution will grant 85,000 people with disabilities the right to vote, according to ZEIT ONLINE.

A person is under full guardianship when the guardian takes over almost every aspect of the person’s life. However, those affected appealed the decision to deny them the right to vote.

According to the German public news service Tagesschau, the Court argued that it is arbitrary when only people with disabilities who have  assigned guardians are denied the right to vote but not people with disabilities who are just supported by their family. In fact, for the German Constitutional judges, the right to vote is the “noblest right of the citizen in a democratic state”.

Looking ahead after the court decision, ZEIT ONLINE quotes the German Federal representative for people with disabilities, Jürgen Dusel. He now wants the Federal German government to act swiftly to enshrine in law the decision by the German Constitutional Court, to allow people with disabilities to vote in the next European parliamentary elections.

The president of the NGO Inclusion Europe Jyrki Pinomaa, commented: “The decision of the Constitutional Court to put an end to this blatant discrimination leads the way for all European countries which still restrict voting rights for people under guardianship. It follows similar recent positive developments in Spain and Denmark. Today is a great day for democracy in Europe! With the European elections just around the corner, law makers must now act quickly so people with disabilities will be able to cast their vote in May.”

While Autism-Europe welcomes this decision by the German Constitutional court because it will lead to more people with disabilities gaining the right to vote,  we are however concerned that the court left open the possibility for lawmakers to exclude certain groups of disabled people from voting.

Indeed, the German Constitutional Court highlighted remaining grounds for excluding people from their right to vote. This is due to the fact, that a vote can only take place “on the basis of a free and open communication between those governing and those governed”. The Constitutional court argues that if because of a disability, a person cannot take part in this communication, then specific criteria for disqualifying someone from voting should be outlined clearly and not based on arbitrary measures.

In line with Lebenshilfe, Inclusion Europe’s German member, we consider that the German federal election law should not foresee any kind of exclusion criteria. Promoting adequate communication between those governing and those governed is the responsibility of the State. The electoral process  has to be made more inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities including for instance, through easy-to-read communication in line with article 29 of the UNCRPD.

Finally, Autism-Europe hopes for others European countries also take action to promote the right to vote for persons with disabilities. In that regard, Lebenshilfe points to Austria and the Netherlands as countries where already today every citizen has the right to vote.