Thibault Appelmans - Belgium

Thibault Appelmans - Belgium

“I am involved in a political party and am also part of the Executive Committee of Inclusion Belgium – an association for persons with intellectual disabilities – so, of course I wanted to vote in Belgium’s local elections.

Until 2017, I couldn’t. The law in Belgium didn’t allow me. In November 2017, me and my father did the necessary steps to allow me to vote – we went to a judge which declared I was capable of voting.  So, I was looking forward to vote for the first time.

The problems started 2 weeks before the elections. In Belgium, you need to receive a letter that tells you where and when to vote. My letter never arrived.

This is when me and my father started a real quest to understand why: we contacted the mayor, we contacted the election authorities (they never answered), we contacted consumer organizations, we contacted friends. We spent 2 weeks trying to understand if I would be able to vote. The answers were always confusing: they didn’t have the registration, it was a legal vacuum.

Finally, the advisor to a regional minister got interested in my case. The elections were on Sunday and the Friday afternoon he called us to inform that it was an “administrative mistake”. They had never updated my registration in the national database! I was not in part of the list of voters! The mayor of my town summoned an emergency meeting, but the region didn’t send the last documents in time.  Thy couldn’t do anything and I didn’t get to vote.

They call it a mistake. I call it discrimination. I hope they correct this. I really want to vote in 2019.

It is not only a problem for me.

It took me and my father weeks, good personal contacts, to even discover what happened. Many persons with disabilities don’t have our kind of means, network, time. They don’t have the access to politicians the same way we do in our town of 3000 people.

They won’t know that they do have the right to vote.

They won’t know why they don’t have.

These “little administrative” mistakes add up. They add up to taking many rights away from us.

For example, my brother Geoffroy was also affected by the same mistake I was. But for him, it’s even worse. When he will have the right, he will need pictures of the candidates, of the parties, to understand whom he is voting for. They still don’t have them in these new electronic machines.”