Elections of 2022 from the Perspective of People with Disability
Om Prasad Sharma, Narayan Municipality-6 Bharti, Dailekh is visually impaired and voted for the first time in the year 2007. Since then, Sharma has been voting in every election. However, he has to vote through a helper. With no other alternative voting methods, he can’t confidently say if his votes have genuinely been cast for the candidate of his choice.
In the context of individuals who require assistance to vote the commission allows those individuals to vote through a helper or a member of the household. Sharma says that it is difficult to have faith in the votes cast, as he is blind and then there is no way to ensure the legitimacy of the vote. He shared his unpleasant experience during the elections of the student union on his campus where he was misled by a person, he was relying on to help him during the process of casting votes.
Menaka Acharya of Birendranagar Municipality-8 also requires assistance to cast vote. She also shares her doubts about the legitimacy of the votes she has supposedly cast and there is no way to confirm if the helpers can be trusted. According to Acharya, it would be easier for visually impaired individuals to vote if audio-based electronic machines are used to cast votes.
.Ashish Adhikari of Mahavai Rural Municipality-7, Ramani, Kalikot also says that having to vote with the help of others robs him of the excitement of the election. “There is no basis to believe that the vote you cast was used or not,” he said. According to Adhikari, he hasn’t been able to confidently utilize his right to vote due to a lack of disability-accessible management of the elections.
There are a lot of individuals within Karnali province, who require assistance to cast votes. They face problems to exercise their voting rights due to inaccessible and technologically unequipped polling stations. People with disabilities face difficulty in travelling to the polling stations where their names have been registered. They are demanding that arrangements should be made to cast votes at places with easier accessibility.
According to Election Guidelines-2079, visually impaired individuals or individuals with a physical disability can take assistance from their family members living in the same household. Voters who can’t indicate vote by themselves because of their disability, are allowed to request the assistance of polling officers. However, voters with a disability who voice out the system are still inadequate to comprehensively exercise their rights.
Somana Khadka, Birendranagar Municipality-8, Surkhet said that this provision violates the confidentiality of their votes. He says, ‘It is called confidential voting. However, the use of a middleman undermines confidentiality. The government should be serious about this.”
Toran Adhikari, Chairperson of Netrahin Yuva Sangh Surkhet, said that the election system is not disability friendly. Even the election materials are not accessible to disabled people. He insists that elections are not accessible, especially for blind people. He said that even though this has been brought to the attention of the government, the government still hasn’t addressed this issue. He said that the government should make technology-friendly elections by arranging electronic voting which would make it easy for voters with disability.
In Surkhet, there are about 600 blind people who have received disability ID cards. About 70 per cent of them have voter lists. Similarly, other individuals with a disability and senior citizens find it difficult to vote for the candidate they want. Due to the lack of disability-friendly structures and the haphazard management of polling centres, they have been facing a lot of trouble while exercising their right to vote.
- Prabha Kumari Raut
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