In light of the upcoming 2014 Lok Sabha elections, CLPR in collaboration with the Centre for Internet and Society, has prepared a Report titled “Enabling Elections: Making the 2014 General Elections Participatory and Accessible for Voters with Disabilities”. This Report addresses the barriers that voters with disabilities face during elections and recommends solutions for the same. A representative democracy is defined by its access to voting and full participation in the political affairs of the country equally for all its citizens, which includes voters with disabilities. This report analyses the legal framework on the rights of persons with disabilities with respect to free and fair elections and argues that the State is constitutionally mandated to enforce this right. The Report examines the relevant provisions of the Representation of People Act, 1951, the Constitution, the relevant directions of the Supreme Court of India and the international conventions.
Electoral participation includes ‘pre-electoral participation’ and ‘actual electoral participation or voting’. Our Report makes recommendations for enhancing accessibility in both these spheres.
For pre-voting access, Our recommendations insist on the need for public consultations, making information about candidates and election manifestos accessible to voters with disabilities, Ensuring that there is a record of all voters with disabilities registered in each constituency and recording their specific needs and ensuring that special efforts are made to facilitate their voting, Keeping a flexible time for voter registration of persons with disabilities, Making necessary structural modifications to registration centres to make them accessible for persons using wheelchairs or other support and providing information must be given to electors about locations for polling stations, locations which have special access, wheelchair facilities, technological assistance etc.
On the actual polling day, it is recommended that polling booths be accessible, the need for mobile polling booths, accessible EVMs, to ensure that voters with disabilities can vote in secrecy without assistance by having measures such as a practice EVM to demonstrate use of the machine and allowing voters with disabilities to try using them before the actual day of voting, not permitting blanket disqualification on the grounds of unsoundness of mind and provision of transportation to voters requiring assistance in traveling to voting sites.
The Report also recommends the need to monitor participation of voters with disabilities, and the need to collect data the in pre-election, election and post-election phases.
Download the report here.