Malawians who are blind are pushing the Malawi Electoral Commission to make available tactile ballot guides (TBG) for them to cast their votes independently. In previous elections, they have been relying on guides who do the marking for them. They argue that such an arrangement violates their right to choose because they were not sure if their guides had really marked on the candidate of their choice. An advocacy group for the rights of people who are deaf and blind, the Visual Hearing Impairment Membership Association, said that tactile ballots will help ensure the full participation of the disabled in the elections. “The issue is that these people seem not to be assisted in the past elections. Yes, there might have been some problems [on the part on the commission] in the past, but this time we are saying ‘no, no, no.’ These people by nature have a right to vote as human beings and children of this country,” said Hockings Munyenyembe, program manager for the association.
Munyenyembe said people who are deaf and blind have long been cheated by the electoral procedure, which allows them to use guides during voting. He believes this is a violation of their right to privacy.
“In most cases it had been discovered that these people [guides] had the opportunity to manipulate the system because, yes, the blind person could choose the person by naming, but when it comes to physical ticking, the person guiding the deaf blind person had a chance to change the other side,” explained Munyenyembe.
Research by the association in 2010 showed that Malawi had more than 6,000 people are visually and hearing impaired. However, Munyenyembe says the association boasts about 2,800 registered members. And about 300 of them are expected to cast their ballots.
Full Article: Malawian Blind Voters Push for Tactile Ballots.