Voting for All!
Improving the accessibility of elections in the Member States of the European Union
Inclusion Europe held a final conference for the project “Accommodating Diversity for Active Participation in European Elections” aiming to facilitate better accessibility of elections in the European Union for people with disabilities and other groups of disadvantaged voters such as older citizens or migrant population.
Members of national electoral commissions and other government bodies responsible for organising elections; important international and EU stakeholders, including intergovernmental as well as civil society organisations, met from 30 – 31 May 2011 in Brussels to discuss concrete measures on how to ensure higher participation of disadvantaged voters in future elections. The conference was attended by Jean-Marc Delizée, Secretary of State for Social Affairs of Belgium and Libor Rouček, Vice-President of the European Parliament.
Deliberations focused on the fundamental right of all citizens to vote, especially with regard to participation of people with disabilities in political and public life. Particular attention was given to accessibility of information, polling stations and voting procedures. Possibilities of training for voters with disabilities as well as polling stations official were also discussed. Participants from different EU countries exchanged their experiences and presented several good practices.
Inclusion Europe and its project partners presented the results of the above-mentioned project:
- Recommendations for Accessible Elections in Europe covering five key areas: legislation on legal capacity, accessible information, training, support for decision-making in voting, and access to the voting process. These recommendations and their easy-to-read version are available in all EU languages .
- A collection of Good Practices for Accessible Elections in Europe and “Voting for all” – An easy-to-read guide on campaigning for more accessible elections published in English, French and Czech.
The main messages of the conference include:
- Accessibility should be a basic standard for all elections.
- Efficient awareness-raising among politicians and decision-makers about the rights and needs of voters with disability is a key step forward. In this respect, cooperation between disability organisations and intergovernmental bodies, such as the OSCE or the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, seems to be crucial.
- Lack of funding is not a valid justification for not taking action as a number of examples from different EU countries prove that positive changes can be achieved even with very limited resources.
In the concluding remarks, Inclusion Europe:
- Calls upon the European Parliament and national electoral authorities to ensure that the whole electoral process (including information, procedures and facilities) is more accessible for all citizens.
- Calls upon politicians to make their electoral campaigns accessible for all voters.
- Recalling the significance and implications of Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, Inclusion Europe calls for reform of national electoral legislation in EU member states in order to prevent disenfranchisement of voters with intellectual disabilities and mental health problems.
- Ahead of the forthcoming meeting of the Venice Commission, Inclusion Europe joins the endeavors to influence its opinion regarding the deprivation of the right to vote .