Saturday, November 07, 2009

Visually impaired voters stripped of privacy right

A requirement to have a city council representative present with visually impaired persons in the voting booth is a breach of the UN convention

A new directive from the Interior and Social Ministry that visually impaired voters must have a council representative present with them in the voting booth has raised the ire of human rights groups.

Moreover, the new requirement is in violation of both the constitution and the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, reports public broadcaster DR.

The rule states that ‘the visually impaired person may themselves choose to have a helper with them in the voting booth, so long as there is also a council representative assisting’.

But the constitution ensures the right of all citizens to secrecy during the voting process. And, according to the new requirement, the visually impaired voter must verbally tell the council representative for whom they are casting their ballot.

‘This means the government is violating the UN Convention regarding citizens’ rights,’ said Jose Doria, law secretary for the United Nations’ human rights committee.

But Karen Ellemann, the interior and social minister, defended the move, saying it was done to ensure that the voter wasn’t pressured by their helper into voting for a certain candidate.

Ellemann said, however, that she would look into the matter and is taking the UN’s criticism of the new ordinance ‘very seriously’.

Although a special ballot for the blind has been proposed as a solution to the problem, visually impaired persons must still have a helper with them at the upcoming local and regional elections on 17 November.


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