Voting Process Unfair To Blind Voters

A blind voter from Durban has raised concerns about the voting process for people with disabilities. This after he wasn’t granted a ‘fair’ chance at voting independently at the voting station.

Thirty-two year old student at the University of KwaZulu Natal Silomo Khumalo says he feels the process at the polling station was unjust for him.

“Where I voted previously everything was communicated and I received enough assistance. This time around, no one approached me to ask if I was okay with the person who was assisting me. They just assumed that everything is okay, which wasn’t. I don’t even know if the person assisting me voted for my party of choice or theirs,” he said.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) there’s a voting aid specially developed for people with special needs including blind and partially sighted persons, low vision users, elderly people and many others; developed by the commission together with the South African Council for the Blind (SANCB).

Khumalo believe there’s still more that needs to be done insuring that people with disabilities cast their votes independently for secrecy sake.

“My vote is my secret but not when I have someone else ticking on the ballot paper for me. Even when I asked to have a party agent coming to confirm if the person assisting me did justice by me I was told that there weren’t any around, and that frustrated me more,” Khumalo said.

Chris Budeli of the South African National Council for the Blind said this is one of the few reported cases, with many being unreported due to people in rural spaces not having enough knowledge of how and who to report them to.

“What we usually do after the elections is that we compile a report and state these issues to the IEC. We usually receive few cases but it might be happening to other people in rural areas, which are not reported because they don’t have a way of communicating these things.

“So when we bring these issues to the IEC, we bring them as cases that are happening in the country so that they can deal with them in totality instead of dealing with them on a case by case basis,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal IEC spokesperson Thabani Ngwira says they are not aware of any cases but urging people to come forward with information so that investigations can be put forward.

“If they could provide us with the names of the voting station we could investigate. There are universal ballot templates in each and every voting station which is a braille that enables one to tell between parties,” he said.

Asked if IEC usually receives many cases of this nature, Ngwira said “We’ve had complaints from people who say voting stations are not accessible for those using wheelchairs. The problem is that we use infrastructure that’s either provided by public works of department of education, so we have no way of changing things. However, we can make recommendations,” Ngwira said.

Featured image by Fatima Moosa