The Government has been asked to “rectify its failure” to provide blind and vision impaired voters with their constitutional right to a secret ballot.
The call has come from the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) as a High Court challenge begins against the Department of the Environment, Community, and Local Government by Robert Sinnott of the Blind Legal Alliance. The action claims people who are blind or vision-impaired cannot vote in secret.
People with sight loss are entitled to enlist the assistance of a ‘trusted friend’ or the presiding officer when casting their ballot.
The NCBI said the current system denies someone who is blind or vision impaired the right to cast a secret ballot and they have no way of verifying that the person assisting them has marked the ballot paper in the way they requested.
Accessible voting is facilitated in other countries through the use of a tactile voting device or tactile ballot template, telephone voting and internet voting.
NCBI believes that a suite of accessible voting options would be the most appropriate.
CEO Chris White said that successive governments had to prioritise the right to vote independently for people with sight loss.
“For 10 years we have been asking the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to investigate the feasibility of accessible voting methods but to date little progress has been made,” said Mr White.
“The department has failed to live up to its commitments to prioritise accessible voting and to conduct its own research into suitable methods. NCBI fully supports Mr Sinnott in his case and we hope that his perseverance and commitment will lead to much-needed change.”
Mr White said the right to vote in secret was a fundamental right denied to a minority of people in Ireland.
“A minority are excluded because it is awkward or difficult to organise the same rights and freedoms that other members of society enjoy and the lack of progress on this issue from successive governments isn’t good enough,” said Mr White.
There are currently 247,000 people with sight loss in Ireland, ranging from mild vision impairment to total blindness.
Three quarters of people with sight loss in Ireland (185,000) are over the age of 18 and eligible to vote.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved