31 July 2017

Rwanda: NEC Rolls Out Special Ballot Papers for Visually Impaired Voters

For the first time, the National Electoral Commission will issue specially designed ballot papers to facilitate disabled voters during the August 4 presidential election.

Previously, visually impaired voters relied on aides or polling assistants to cast their vote. This, many observers say, was quite inconveniencing as it did not reflect the aspect of secret ballot.

The special ballot paper was successfully tested during the election of representatives of the disabled to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).

Speaking to The New Times, the Executive Secretary of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), Emmanuel Ndayisaba, said the names of the presidential candidates have been put on the braille so blind voters will easily know candidates.

He added that the council has put disabled people into categories differentiating those who can read using braille and can use the latest innovation.

Clémence Mukarugwiza, who is visually-impaired and works as a legal officer at the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, said the development will ensure that voting is secret as stipulated in the law.

She is one of the five pioneers who consulted NEC to find solutions to ensure visually-impaired voters voted without requiring aides as was the case in previous polls.

"This is a big step following my bad experience in 2010 election while I was at campus in Huye. Then, they provided me with a child to help me vote but most of us refused. I didn't trust the kid so I requested for help from the electoral volunteers to cast my vote," Mukarugwiza said.

Jacques Mugisha, of Handicap International, said he can't wait to exercise his right without help from anyone.

However, Mugisha noted that it's necessary for NEC to sensitise more voters on the provision as most are not aware of the new process.

"NEC should have got closer to us to facilitate the process. I have since realised that some of us are not aware of the new voting system. I hope that on Election Day there will be some information on the provision as we go in to vote," Mugisha said.

Mugisha said that although there might be some challenges since it's the first time using the system, it is encouraging to see that their requests have been addressed.

NEC Executive Secretary Charles Munyaneza said they have worked together with National Council for Persons with Disabilities to address concerns of disabled persons in the voting process.

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