Why tens of thousands are excluded from German parliamentary elections
On the 24th of September 2017 it is the parliamentary elections in Germany. These elections are promising for many people as they are seen as a great possibility to generate change and advance in many different social, political and cultural fields. But while everyone over the age of 18 has the right to vote according to the German constitution more than 81.000 full-aged people are stripped of the right to make their cross on the 24th. Why? Because they have a disability. This group includes all people that depend on assistance in all areas of life. Examples are people with severe mental disabilities, but also people with physical disabilities or Down Syndrome. A further 4.000 people are excluded from the elections as they are in psychological full care. This includes people with psychotic illnesses like depressions, suicidal tendency, personality disorders and impaired social behaviour.
The assistance and support that the people are offered should help the people in their daily lives, especially with the decisions that they make. This principle is however abrogated during the elections. The justification for this legal regulation is the belief that people that can not make their own decisions in life are prone to manipulation. I for my part believe that everyone has the potential to be manipulated especially in times of the Internet.
I find this regulation appalling, as disabled people depend very greatly on the decisions made by the legislator, especially concerning decisions in the medical sector ( e.g. financing of care, medicine/drugs, operations etc.), education and labour. The elections could also have a great effect on how they are included in the society and which opportunities and options they are offered. They should therefore also have a voice when it comes to deciding things in these sectors and should have the possibility to actively contribute.
According to the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which came into force in 2008 everyone in society should enjoy equal rights and should have the ability to participate actively and efficiently in public and political life. One-half of the EU countries have abolished laws that exclude people with disabilities from parliamentary elections. It is true that there are certain medical conditions where people are not able to make their own decisions because they are severely mentally disabled and their cognitive abilities are restricted or fallen behind the norm. But there are also many that still retain their full mental and cognitive ability and are interested in politics and the decisions made by the country. People with Down Syndrome normally have an IQ of 40-70, while some also reach „average“ intelligence. (average IQ is 70-130). It is not rare that people with Down Syndrome are able to attain normal schools, can receive a lower education degree and enter the labour force. Pablo Pineda Ferrer (born 1974 in Malaga) is a Spanish teacher, actor and the first person with Down Syndrome with a university degree.
And bizarrely people with dementia and even people in the vegetative state (coma) are not stripped of the right to vote whereas their vote is also dubious if we would follow the criteria mentioned above. The same applies to drug addicts and alcoholics.
According to me, we should not discuss who should vote and who not; ultimately every person should have the right to vote if we really live in a democratic society. We should rather look for possibilities and solutions how we can make the elections accessible and understandable for everyone. For example we have also introduced methods with which blind people are now able to vote. We could for example offer political education, assisting staff during the elections and easier ballots (e.g. with bigger writing and easier phrasing or with symbols of the parties and pictures of the politicians) for people with disabilities. These methods would be comparable with access arrangements for international exams like the IB.
The most tricky question remains where we draw the line when deciding who has the right to vote and who should be stripped of it?