GERMANY – In May 2019 in the German city-state of Bremen, local celebrity and 2002 German Eurovision Song Contest hopeful Corinna May did something she hadn’t done for years — she headed out to vote. May normally uses a postal vote, a common and straightforward option in Germany, but she ran out of time to mail her ballot, so she decided simply to vote in person.
At the polling station, she asked if she could bring her husband into the voting booth with her, but was told that this is not allowed. She declined an assistant from among the election officers because she said that this would compromise her privacy. In the end, May did not vote at all.
Corinna May made history as the first blind singer to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest. The reason is simple: May is among an estimated 145,000 people in Germany who are blind. Over a year after her botched effort to cast her ballot, a Bremen court threw out the case on Thursday.
While Germany was described as a “pioneer” of accessible voting for blind people within Europe by the European Blind Union (EBU), May’s story shows that there are still big steps to be taken for blind people to exercise their democratic right in an equal and fairway.
The professional singer and disability rights activist initially took the case to the electoral review court, which threw out the case in November 2019 on the grounds that there were adequate provisions in place — May just hadn’t taken advantage of them. May appealed the decision, and the case landed before the state constitutional court in Bremen.
But the constitutional court rejected her appeal, saying there is “no indication that blind or visually-impaired people would have been prevented from exercising their right to vote in a way that was relevant to election results.”
A stencil is a common way in Germany for blind and visually-impaired people to vote.