News / Africa

Malawian Blind Voters Push for Tactile Ballots

FILE - An elderly woman casts her vote in Malawi's general election in Machinga district, north of the commercial capital, Blantyre.
FILE - An elderly woman casts her vote in Malawi's general election in Machinga district, north of the commercial capital, Blantyre.
Lameck Masina
Malawians who are blind are pushing the Malawi Electoral Commission to make available tactile ballot guides (TBG) for them to cast their votes independently.  In previous elections, they have been relying on guides who do the marking for them. They argue that such an arrangement violates their right to choose because they were not sure if their guides had really marked on the candidate of their choice.

An advocacy group for the rights of people who are deaf and blind, the Visual Hearing Impairment Membership Association, said that tactile ballots will help ensure the full participation of the disabled in the elections.

“The issue is that these people seem not to be assisted in the past elections. Yes, there might have been some problems [on the part on the commission] in the past, but this time we are saying ‘no, no, no.'  These people by nature have a right to vote as human beings and children of this country,” said Hockings Munyenyembe,  program manager for the association.

Munyenyembe said people who are deaf and blind have long been cheated by the electoral procedure, which allows them to use guides during voting. He believes this is a violation of their right to privacy.

“In most cases it had been discovered that these people [guides] had the opportunity to manipulate the system because, yes, the blind person could choose the person by naming, but when it comes to physical ticking, the person guiding the deaf blind person had a chance to change the other side," explained Munyenyembe.

Research by the association in 2010 showed that Malawi had more than 6,000 people are visually and hearing impaired. However, Munyenyembe says the association boasts about 2,800 registered members. And about 300 of them are expected to cast their ballots.

Sangwani Mwafulirwa, spokesperson for the Malawi Electoral Commission, told VOA that although the electoral law allows a visually impaired person to bring someone from home to assist in voting, the commission will make sure that this time around they vote independently.

“As the Malawi Electoral Commission, we have made it clear that we are going to provide tactile ballots in each and every center, so that if someone comes and needs to use a tactile ballot, they can use it,” said Mwafulirwa.

But Munyenyembe says with few weeks remaining to the election, they are worried about the slow pace the commission is taking to produce the tactile ballot. He says the association would need the sample ballots to pre-test them as well as to educate qualified voters on their use.
 
The Federation of Disability Organizations in Malawi, or FEDOMA, said it is seeking legal redress that would compel the commission to meet the demands of the people with disabilities for the elections.

Action Amos is executive director of the organization. He told a news conference last week in Blantyre that, among other things, the commission has failed to come up with an action plan and budget allocation for issues of accessibility for people with different disabilities.

“As an organization which represents persons with disabilities, we think that we need legal redress so that these people with disabilities are also able to cast their votes,” said Amos.

Mwafulirwa told a local radio, Capital FM, that the commission is making efforts to address all concerns raised by FEDOMA. But he said the commission cannot stop anybody from taking it to court.

You May Like

Photogallery Kyiv: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Weeki
X
August 29, 2014 2:18 AM
The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid