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

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora