Incapacitated persons allowed to vote in European Elections, said Polish court in landmark ruling

In May 2019, the District Court in Nowy Sącz, Poland, ordered an incapacitated person to be entered in the voters’ register for the European Parliamentary elections, reversing a previous negative decision of the city’s mayor.

SRT grantee, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and Clifford Chance conducted proceedings in the case of Mr Adam Kowalski (name changed), declared by a court as a “partially incapacitated” person (lacking some, but not all, of the abilities necessary to provide oneself with food, clothing, shelter and other essential care).

The court found that the blanket deprivation of the right to vote in elections to the European Parliament of partially incapacitated persons, violated the European Convention on Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and European Union law.

Jarosław Jagura, an attorney who represented the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in court commented the following: “In the statement of reasons, the court noted that a disability cannot limit the exercise of electoral rights and found that the mechanism of automatic disenfranchisement was flawed. Exclusion from participation in elections should be preceded by an individual assessment of the situation of the person concerned. In the case of Mr Kowalski, the court found that our client was fit to vote”. The court also emphasised that Polish legislation is inconsistent: the law allows incapacitated persons to join political parties, but forbids them to vote for their leaders. At the same time, the court stated that the current design of the measure of legal incapacitation does not match the realities of the present time.

The full press release by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights can be found here:

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