Decision of the German Constitutional Court: “A great day for democracy in Europe”

“A great day for democracy in Europe”: German Constitutional Court declares it unconstitutional to strip people under full guardianship from voting rights

Victory for our German member Bundesvereinigung Lebenshilfe and eight other German organisations who went to court

The German Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that stripping people under full guardianship (as well as criminal offenders) from their voting rights is unconstitutional. The resolution of January 29, 2019 was published today.

More than 85,000 people with disabilities were previously unable to vote in federal elections. Because of the decision, all people with disabilities will be able to vote at the next federal election.

Inclusion Europe’s president, Jyrki Pinomaa, commented:

“The decision of the Constitutional Court to put an end to this blatant discrimination shows the way for all European countries which still restrict voting rights for people under guardianship. It follows similar recent positive developments in Spain and Denmark. Today is a great day for democracy in Europe! With the European elections just around the corner, law makers must now act quickly so people with disabilities will be able to cast their vote in May.”

A recent survey among Inclusion Europe’s members in the context of the May elections has shown that

  • In 6 countries, people under guardianship have no voting rights 
  • In 11 countries, they have limited voting rights
  • In 10 countries, they have full voting rights

But even in countries where voting rights are not restricted, accessibility is a major stumbling block for true election equality, with lengthy election programmes, complicated voting slips and a lack of assistance just being some of the issues.

However, there are a number of positive examples on how things can be improved.

  • In Scotland, people with a learning disability were given the opportunity to meet their local politicians at accessible hustings. This led to a sharp rise in them casting their ballot, and to their concerns being discussed in Parliament.
  • Training politicians in easy language before they met people with intellectual disabilities in study circles proved to be successful in Sweden: the Democracy Commission decided to start adding party logos to ballot papers next to the candidates’ names, which makes it easier to recognise their party affiliation.

These cases illustrate how listening to people’s concerns can have a real and lasting effect.

People with intellectual disabilities are maybe the part of the population who most values their right to vote. They know how easily it can be taken away. At the elections to the European Parliament, they all deserve to vote.

As activist László Bercse says: “For me it is very important to vote at the European elections. I care about who is going to represent me in the European Parliament. I would like the European Parliament to make decisions which are good for me and for other people with disabilities.”

Self-advocate Maribel Cáceres, who went to court to regain her right to vote, comments: “Everyone has the right to vote. We should not be discriminated against because we are disabled.”


Picture credit:

Rainer Lück [CC BY-SA 3.0 de]


Further information:
Resources on Inclusion Europe’s website: “Make the most of the elections to the European Parliament!

Pictures for illustration purposes:

Self-advocate Mathilde Cotman (Belgium)
Self-advocate Stefan Jawitz (Belgium)


About Inclusion Europe:

Inclusion Europe is the movement of people with intellectual disabilities and their families in Europe.
Since 1988, Inclusion Europe fights for equal rights and full inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities and their families in all aspects of life. The association has members in nearly 40 European countries.