Political participation of persons with disabilities: what you need to know ahead of the 2024 European Elections

Political participation of persons with disabilities: what you need to know ahead of the 2024 European Elections

Did you miss the launch event of the European Disability Forum’s 6th Human Rights Report on the EU elections and persons with disabilities? Here is what you need to know about the event and the situation in EU Member States towards the 2024 European Elections.

On the 16th of May 2022, the launch event of the report gathered participants from Europe and beyond, including national and international policymakers, experts in EU democracy and voters’ rights, civil society organisations, organisations of persons with disabilities, and disability advocates.

Moderated by Catherine Naughton, EDF Director, the launch event was introduced by Pat Clarke, EDF Vice President, followed by a video message from Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, who declared outrageous that “in 2022 the electoral laws of 14 Member States do not allow people with disabilities to vote. This is discrimination. This is unacceptable for our European democracy”. In her message, President Metsola said that this Human Rights Report helps greatly the European Parliament, and thanked EDF and its member for our “fight for democracy”.

The event was followed by a presentation of Armin Rabitsch from Elections Watch.EU, who collaborated in the production of the comparative study across the Member States together with all their national elections experts, and EDF members, and Alejandro Moledo, EDF Head of Policy. Together, they presented the main findings of the report:

  • There is a minimum set of common rules for the European Parliament elections, but these do not specify who has the right to vote. Therefore, there are 27 de facto separate elections and countries use different systems and ways to vote.
  • Persons with disabilities under guardianship are automatically denied the right to vote in 7 countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Luxembourg, Poland, and Romania), and in other 7 countries, there is the possibility of restricting their right to vote (Belgium, Czechia, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, and Slovenia).
  • Only 8 countries uphold the right to stand for office for all persons with disabilities without exemption (Austria, Denmark, Germany Spain, Croatia, Italy, Netherlands and Sweden).
  • In addition to having different ways of voting, most EU countries have introduced alternative and advance means of voting, such as early in-person voting, postal voting, or internet voting in the case of Estonia. Only France, Belgium, Cyprus, and Greece do not provide any of these alternative and advance ways to vote.
  • Accessibility to the polling stations has been a focus for many governments: 18 Member States have direct or indirect legal obligations.
  • But to ensure equal access, accessibility must be incorporated into all elections’ proceedings, facilities, and materials. Good practices were presented in this regard.
  • In addition to accessibility, most EU countries provide alternative and advance means of voting for persons with disabilities, such as mobile ballot boxes (19 countries) or the possibility to change polling stations (20 countries), besides, in some cases, the possibility to use assistive tools to vote independently and in secret.
  • Only Greece and Malta do not allow persons with disabilities to freely choose a person to help them cast their vote.

You can find all this information and more details in our report.

The second part of the event was introduced by the intervention of Irena Moozova, Director for Equality and Union citizenship in the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST) and chair of the European Cooperation Network on Elections, who reaffirmed the commitment of the European Commission to “promote full political participation of persons with disabilities through promoting best practices for the 2024 EU elections in cooperation with the European Parliament, Member States, and civil society”.

After her intervention, EDF Director, Catherine Naughton, moderated a panel discussion formed by Dovile Juodkaite from the Lithuanian Disability Forum, Cyril Desjeux, Scientific Director at Handéo, Thorkild Olesen from the Disabled Peoples Organisation Denmark, Jurij Toplak, professor at Alma Mater Europaea and visiting professor at the Fordham Law School in New York, and Rui Coimbras from Cerebral Palsy – European Communities Association (CP-ECA).
The panelists discussed specific campaigns, judicial cases, and initiatives that brought substantial change to their countries. To discover more about the panel discussion, you can watch or rewatch the recording of the launch event on our Facebook page.

The event concluded with a video message from MEP Doménech Ruiz Devesa, rapporteur of the electoral law proposal adopted by the European Parliament in May 2022, which takes into account the demands of the disability movement as for the right to vote and equal access to EU elections for persons with disabilities. The event finished with the publication of the report on EDF’s website.

Read our report to learn more about:

  • The International Human Rights Standard on the right to vote and to stand for election
  • The right to vote and stand for elections of persons with disabilities
  • Equal access to elections, secrecy of the vote, and free choice of assistance
  • Municipal elections from a EU mobile citizens’ perspective
  • Cases bringing change
  • Our recommendation to EU and national policymarkers


Image credit: © European Union 2019 – Source : EP / Ph. Buissin