Blind World Magazine

Visually impaired insist on right for secret vote.

The Times, Malta.
Saturday, March 04, 2006.

Three organisations representing the visually impaired have filed an application claiming that blind voters ought to be provided with a system that allows them to cast their vote independently and in confidence without the help of third parties.

The application, in Maltese text and in Braille, was filed by Francis Tirchett from the Malta Society of the Blind, Kevin Cutajar from the Gozo Aid for the Visually Impaired and Joseph Stafrace from Torball Society for the Blind, in their personal capacity and as representatives of the organisations.

They filed it in the First Hall of the Civil Court against the Electoral Commission and the Attorney General.

The organisations claimed that their members had voted in previous elections, such as, the general election on April 12, 2003, and the European Parliament elections on June 12, 2004.

In the previous elections, the authorities failed to provide a voting system that was adequate for blind people. In so doing, they failed to provide them with the right to a secret vote as they had to cast their ballot with the assistance of an official from the Electoral Commission. The organisations said that they found this degrading and humiliating as blind voters were being treated as illiterate when they were not.

This illegal system, which was still used today, was discriminatory, they argued, adding that they had lodged a formal complaint to the authorities but nothing had been done to improve the situation.

Although the General Elections Act laid down that a blind person was to vote with the assistance of a commission official, and this system was recognised by the Constitution, it did not mean that the blind had to vote exclusively with the help of a third person.

There were countries where the blind voted without any assistance and this thanks to other systems such as plastic templates, biometric voice recognition voting systems, input masks or Braille.

The organisations called on the court to declare that the authorities were in breach of the Equal Opportunities Act and to order that an adequate voting system is made available to the blind.

Lawyer Robert Attard signed the application.

End of article.

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