An urgent call to revise the European electoral law of 1976

15 December 2020

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted by unanimity, and without any abstention, an opinion about the need to guarantee real rights for persons with disabilities to vote in European Parliament elections. This opinion, drafted by the EESC member Krzysztof Pater, follows up the 2019 report on the real right of persons with disabilities to vote in the European Parliament elections, which describes the legal and technical barriers preventing persons with disabilities from voting in the European Elections. The recently adopted opinion calls on the EU Parliament, the European Council and Member States to “urgently amend the 1976 Electoral Act”.

The EESC opinion proposes to ban depriving people of the right to vote in EU elections on the grounds of disability or health status; the obligation to provide information on voting rules in suitable forms for persons with disabilities; to provide an alternative for persons with disabilities to vote independently if the polling station is not accessible to them; to implement ad hoc solutions enabling persons with disabilities to vote independently, and to ensure the persons’ right to freely chose a personal assistant to support them in exercising their right to vote.

The opinion recalls that in all 27 Member States there are rules and organisational arrangements that deprive persons with disabilities of the possibility of participating in the EU elections, which is “unacceptable and contrary to the fundamental values of the EU” and against the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities article 29 on participation in political and public life. The EESC takes stock of the progress made in countries such as France or Germany before the 2019 elections, but stresses that there are still 14 Member State which exclude around 400,000 people from voting in the EU elections on the grounds of intellectual and psychosocial disabilities.

Additionally, there are 8 Member States in which, if people cannot get to the polling station, there is no alternative way of voting. In 18 Member States, blind and partially sighted people don’t have an accessible way of voting independently. In 12 countries, people cannot select their preferred polling station. And in only one Member State there are rules defining the equipment and operation of the polling station to be suitable for voters with disabilities.

EDF secretariat and EDF members have been cooperating with Mr Krzysztof Pater, rapporteur of both the report and the recent opinion. EDF Secretariat will soon start reaching out to allies in the European Parliament to begin a resolution calling for the amendment of the 1976 Electoral Law in line with the UN CRPD and the EESC opinion. If adopted in the Parliament, Member States will need to agree by unanimity in the Council. Our aim is to ensure that all persons with disabilities will be able to participate in the 2024 European Elections.

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