“Now I live in France, but I haven’t yet taken part in the elections due to my timing moving to Paris. I can more compare Belgium and Germany. I had mixed experiences, and most of them were negative.
In terms of registration, the easiest was in Germany. Once you are registered as a German citizen, you receive the election card directly to your home address. It is a good reminder that the election will come. It also allows you to choose for a postal vote. There is nothing you need to do in terms of going and registering yourself to get on an electoral database.
In Germany, I could enjoy postal voting as it is common practice for a large part of the population. The advantage of postal vote is that you get the list and the materials to your place, and you can go through the materials with a person of your choice. A few years later, Germany introduced some more formats provided by national DPOs that allowed voters with disabilities to read the materials, identify the political parties on the list, and know where to add a cross to make their vote valid.
In Belgium, my experience was different because I was a European and not a national citizen. I was only taking part in the local and European elections. To register on the electoral list, I had to go the extra mile as a EU citizen and someone who wanted to participate in the local and European elections. For voters in general, including persons with disabilities, it is an extra step to overcome.
The elections in which I took part in Belgium were based on electronic voting. I had to go to the polling station on election day and vote by inserting a card in a computer. For me, it was very problematic to some extent. I went there naively, without receiving any official information ahead of time or when registering to the town hall, discovering the voting system on the spot, and not being able to choose a person of trust to come with me. So, when I got to the polling station, one of the officials came with me to the booth and cast the vote for me. He knew who I voted for. Equally important, I had no means of verifying if the person had executed my will and no means to control that. I felt powerless when elections should be about feeling empowered.
Secrecy of the vote is an issue for blind persons like me, whether we talk about places or formats. But it can be overcome. I think the way forward in terms of voting, secrecy, and accessibility is electronic voting. Not in the way I described it, but the Estonian way, where you can cast your vote from home. You have the time to do it, and it is accessible. So, you can do it by yourself. Of course, the accessibility must be 100% correct. Otherwise, it can completely exclude you from the vote.”