In each of the 27 EU countries, there are rules or organisational arrangements that deprive some voters with disabilities of the possibility of participating in European Parliament elections.
Because of the ageing of the population, the number of people deprived of the right to vote is going to increase steadily in the coming years. This applies to people living at home, or in long-term care institutions, as well as those undergoing short-term care in hospitals, people in the process of treatment or rehabilitation at home and people who are subject to isolation or quarantine due to epidemiological risks.
The EESC considers this unacceptable and contrary to the fundamental values of the EU, to the provisions of the Treaty on European Union and to many international legal and political acts, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the recommendations of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers.
The EESC calls on the EP, the European Council and Member States to urgently amend the 1976 Electoral Act by clarifying the principles of universality, directness and secrecy of elections. This would allow to implement standards throughout the EU that would guarantee real voting rights for persons with disabilities. The standards should include at least the following:
- a ban on depriving people of the right to vote in European Parliament's elections on the grounds of disability or health status;
- to provide accessible information on voting rules;
- allowing individuals unable to access their polling station due to their disability to vote independently outside the polling station;
- implementing solutions that would enable persons with disabilities in need of significant support – such as persons who are deafblind, blind, visually impaired or having limited manual dexterity – to vote independently, without relying on assistance from other people;
- the possibility of changing the designated polling station to one that is more suited to the needs of voters with disabilities;
- a person's right to freely choose a personal assistant who will support them in exercising their right to vote.
Implementing these rules will still give Member States broad discretionary powers, but will nevertheless guarantee that as of 2024 every EU citizen will have the real right to elect their representative to the European Parliament, regardless of nationality or country of residence.