Arrangements to be made for visually impaired persons to independently vote

Capture of a ballot box during the Local Council Elections 2017. (File Photo/Sun/Fayaz Moosa)

Blind and Visually Impaired Society of Maldives (BVISM) has stated that the Elections Commission (EC) has provided assurance that they will undertake all efforts to ensure the establishment of arrangements for visually-impaired persons to independently vote in the upcoming presidential elections.

Representatives from the organization met with EC members on Sunday, to share difficulties faced by visually-impaired persons in voting. BVISM’s President Ali Shameem said that discussions were held on making arrangements for visually-impaired persons to independently vote.

In an interview to Sun, Shameem said that although a number of elections have been held in the Maldives previously, none of them provided the opportunity for visually-impaired persons to independently vote. Subsequently, he said there was an abundance of concerns surrounding the issue from visually-impaired persons.

Shameem said that the concerns have been relayed to EC since 2017 through various meetings – including during online meetings held last year. Nevertheless, EC’s remarks regarding budget constraints for this year’s election hindering addressing the issue had raised alarms, he said.

“During the press held to brief regarding this year’s election – we heard that there were budget constraints to facilitate independent voting for visually impaired persons,” he noted.

Shameem said that discussions were held last year regarding what could be done without incurring much expense.

Speaking further, Shameem described one of the most prominent issues faced as visually-impaired persons being forced to cast vote.

“We are extremely sad to note that some of our youngsters, who wish not to vote, have been dragged and forced to vote, while they cry, by the influence of their parents or someone else,” he said.

Shameem underscored that all these concerns have been shared with EC during Sunday’s meeting, describing the meeting had gone extremely well.

In this regard, he added that EC had provided assurance to undertake all possible efforts to ensure visually-impaired persons can vote independently.

A budget of MVR 90 million has been allocated for the presidential election.

While the election has been scheduled for September 9th by EC, if a second round is called for, the second round will be held on September 30th