Exclusion at the ballot box

Exclusion at the ballot box

"The principle of exclusion comes from a time that is socially outdated," says ulrich wustmann, says ulrich wustmann, chairman of the supervisory board of lebenshilfe erlangen-hochstadt. Some lebenshilfe residents were allowed to vote, others not – depending on the court’s decision on the care issue. Those who are permanently and fully cared for in germany are not allowed to vote in the federal election.

The fact that an important election is coming up is felt by everyone. And those who are excluded react with resentment and anger, says managing director josef hennemann. He and his employees see this firsthand and try to explain what they themselves cannot understand. "It is difficult to make the facts clear to those who are excluded – here the exclusion of the disabled becomes clearly traceable." And that should no longer be the case in today’s world, says wustmann too. He refers to the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

Accordingly, people with disabilities should be able to participate in all public areas of life without discrimination. For him, this also includes being able to participate in the election in a self-determined manner.

Get the right to vote for all

Hennemann wants to fight for a change in this situation. One way for him would be a revision of the law of care. The right to vote should be retained in principle – even with care in all other matters. Wustmann is in favor of completely eliminating the exclusion of voting rights.

Every election is also a part of the daily work of jurgen ganzmann, managing director of the WAB kosbach. At the facility for people with mental illnesses and disabilities, residents demand political discussion and information, he says. Many are very committed. None of the residents is excluded from voting, which ganzmann supports and makes clear: "the basic democratic right to vote must be safeguarded."

This is why people with care needs should also be allowed to participate in elections in germany. The UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities must be implemented – in other countries, this also works, says ganzmann.

A european comparison shows that half of the EU member states have now abolished a blanket exclusion of the kind practiced in germany. In austria, disqualification from voting is only possible as a consequence of a conviction by a court of law. In his institution, it is also important to him that there is no influence whatsoever. "People get support where they need it", he explains. For this he recommends to the residents, for example, websites in simple language. Whether they apply for a letter or appear in person is up to them.

No influence allowed

"To vote, to go to the polls." This is the motto in the disabled facility of the barmherzige bruder in gremsdorf. As johann salomon, who is responsible for public relations, explains in response to a question from the FT, "well over a hundred" people with mental illnesses and disabilities also apply for political elections of the 320 or so residents exercising their right to vote. Brieahl is the gross exception to this rule. "The house wants people to go to the polling station as well", says salomon. The aim is to avoid the accusation that the staff is influencing the voters.

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