Bill on independent voting for visually impaired sent to Whole House Committee

Blind and Visually Impaired Society of Maldives (BVISM) holds press conference at the People's Majlis. (Sun Photo/Ibrahim Shamweel)

The bill proposing amendments to the General Elections Act calling for independent voting arrangements for impaired persons was accepted by the parliament at today's parliamentary sitting following which the bill has been sent to the Whole House Committee for review.

The bill was submitted by Hinnavaru MP Jeehan Mahmood on behalf of the government.

Presenting her bill, Jeehan said visually impaired persons and physically disabled persons have been voting in elections with the assistance of another person to date. She stressed that the voting arrangements deprive the visually impaired of various rights guaranteed to them by law.

In the bill, the government introduces a transparent template that matches the size of the ballot paper. The template will be marked to guide where the person must tick to cast their vote for the candidate. Moreover, the candidate’s number will be written on the template in braille.

The ballot paper can be inserted into the template or the template can be aligned with the ballot paper in order to guide visually impaired persons in casting their vote.

Parliament, during Tuesday’s sitting, accepted the bill with the unanimous votes of 51 lawmakers. It was also decided that the bill will be sent to the Whole House Committee for review by the unanimous consensus of 51 lawmakers.

All lawmakers, during the debate process of the bill, underscored the importance of passing the bill at the earliest.

Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, who was presiding over Tuesday’s sitting, commended the lawmakers for working together on important issues despite the political differences among them.

The template proposed with the amendment is widely used across the world as a tool to allow visually impaired persons to vote independently. The amendment was formulated after consultations with the Blind and Visually Impaired Society of Maldives (BVISM).

Officials from BVISM met with the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee and Independent Institutions Committee previously over the absence of arrangements for visually impaired persons to vote independently in elections.