The right to vote


For more accessibility of elections for people with intellectual disabilities

The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights of all European citizens. It is not only about taking part in the political process, but about being included in society and having our voice heard.

In the UK, IE member organisation Mencap revealed that in the 2010 May general election, only 31% of people with intellectual disabilities voted, compared to 65.1% of the general population.

Despite this, several groups of people are denied this right to vote, due to the fact that European and national elections are not accessible for them, including people with intellectual disabilities. These groups find it difficult to take part in elections due to the complexity of information about voting and the electoral process which is too difficult to understand. Other factors which may hinder their participation include legislation on legal capacity which excludes people with intellectual disabilities from voting, or lack of access to polling stations.

Research in Sweden showed that in 1998, 20% of people with intellectual disabilities voted, compared to 81.4% of the general population and that in 1994, 31% of people with intellectual disabilities voted in the national election, compared with 86% of the general population.

People with intellectual disabilities often find it harder than others to learn, understand and communicate. Many people with intellectual disabilities find it harder to process complex information. However, with simpler, easy to understand information as well as the right support, many people with intellectual disabilities are perfectly capable of expressing their opinions and making informed decisions. People with intellectual disabilities have suffered from a long history of discrimination, and in many countries are still disenfranchised of their right to vote because of restrictions placed upon them by guardianship measures.