Mara wants to vote – why does the Spanish state keep her from doing it?

The right to vote is one of the fundamental rights of every citizen – yet many people with intellectual disabilities are being deprived of that right. Inclusion Europe supports its Spanish member Plena Inclusión in its protest for voting rights for people with learning disabilities.

In Spain, the Constitutional Court has refused the request from a family to allow their disabled daughter, Mara, to vote.

Mara was forced to do an exam to “test” her knowledge of political parties or the value of money – a test other citizens do not have to undergo in order to exercise their voting rights.

The law which the judges based their decision upon prevents 100.000 people in Spain alone from voting. Similar laws exist in many countries in Europe.

Protest in front of the Constitutional Court on Wednesday

On 8th February, at 11am (Spanish time) Inclusion Europe’s Spanish member Plena Inclusión will co-organise a protest in front of the Constitutional Court in Madrid to reclaim voting rights for people with a disability. Plena Inclusión, the Spanish Committee of Representatives of People with a Disability and the Spanish Down Syndrome association demand a change of law, as promised by the minister for Social Services and Equality last year. They also demand that people with a disability get the support they need in order to inform themselves and cast their vote.

Inclusion Europe fully supports this protest. Spain has signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This puts an obligation on Spain to ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others.

Ruling of the Constitutional Court “unacceptable”

Maureen Piggot, President of Inclusion Europe, said: “It is unacceptable that in 2017, people with an intellectual disability are still not granted legal capacity and are excluded from exercising their full civil rights, including their voting rights. This practice must stop not only in Spain, but all over Europe.”

Senada Halilčević, President of EPSA, the European Platform of Self-Advocates, also strongly condemned the Constitutional Court’s ruling: “The recent decision of the Constitutional Court to deny Mara the right to vote is a violation of her human rights. The right to vote must be guaranteed to all people, without exceptions.”

Inclusion Europe has called upon its members to support Plena Inclusión’s protest and will closely follow the developments in Spain and other European countries regarding this matter.


The demonstration in front of the Spanish Constitutional Court was attended by more than 1000 people. Demonstrators displayed banners reading “Don’t mess with our rights” and chanted “We want to vote”. A statement entitled “Manifesto for persons with disabilities’ right to vote’”was read out.

Santiago López, President of Inclusion Europe’s member Plena Inclusión, said “the easiest way” to ensure the right to vote for all people with disabilities would be to eliminate from the law article 3, the provision that limits the exercise of the right by people who are under legally-authorised guardianship.



Letter of Senada Halilčević, President of EPSA, in support of Spanish self-advocates

About Inclusion Europe:

Inclusion Europe is an association 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.

For more information please contact Angelika Hild, Communications Officer,

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