Millions of citizens with disabilities will not be able to cast their ballots in European elections

Some 800 000 EU citizens suffering from mental health problems or who have an intellectual disability will be deprived of their right to vote on account of national rules that are in force in 16 Member States. On top of this, millions of voters will be deterred by technical barriers at polling stations that do not take into account the needs resulting from their various types of disability, the EESC said in a report.

The EESC's information report Real rights of persons with disabilities to vote in EP elections, issued in March, has shown that despite many binding legal documents protecting the rights of these people in the EU, not a single Member State has so far ensured that elections are accessible to all.

"This report presents an ugly side of Europe – a reality which is far from our expectations," said its author, Krzysztof Pater, who compiled it on the basis of surveys conducted over two years in all EU countries except the UK.

In nine countries, persons with mental health problems automatically lose their voting rights when they have a guardian appointed. Under seven national laws, their ability to vote is individually assessed by either courts or medical boards.

In as many as 18 Member States, blind voters have no way of voting independently. In eight countries, anyone physically unable to come to the polling station will not be able to cast their ballots.

However, the report does give reason for hope, as it lists 200 examples of good practices and positive solutions from all EU countries. (ll)