Professor Michael Waterstone
This post originally appeared on Opiniojuris.com.
I am grateful that the Harvard International Law Journal and Opinio Juris have asked me to write a response to The Democratic Life of the Union: Toward Equal Voting Participation for Europeans with Disabilities, written by Janos Fiala-Butora, Michael Stein and Janet Lord. This Article seeks to put forward “preliminary legal scholarship on equal political participation by persons with disabilities and what international human rights law requires for its attainment.” Given their various experiences as academics, international human rights lawyers, and academics, the authors are certainly well suited to this task (and I should note that two of the three are former co-authors and friends).
As I see it, this Article makes three significant points: (1) it describes Kiss, a European Court of Human Rights decision holding that Hungary had unjustly and indiscriminately taken voting rights away from someone solely by nature of his being placed under guardianship, and critiques the decision for offering limited standards for what type of individualized inquiry is required to restrict the franchise; (2) argues that under international law, states should not be able to disenfranchise persons on the basis of disability, even in the case where individual assessments are made; and (3) challenges Martha Nussbaum’s suggestion that states should authorize guardians to vote on behalf of individuals who are neither able to form a view on political issues for themselves nor communicate their choices to others (the authors would not have a guardian exercise decision-making, meaning that those who cannot vote – properly construed, a small number – do not vote).
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