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State Minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Senator Floyd Morris, has recommended that a confidentiality clause be included in the Electoral Commission legislation for the protection of the disabled voters.
He made the suggestion during the debate on the Bill, which was passed in the Senate on Friday (Oct. 20).
“For a Bill of this nature it is absolutely important for a clause to be included dealing with the issue of confidentiality. Persons who are visually impaired for example who have individuals cast their vote and that individual can be either a family member or one of the electoral officials,” said Senator Morris.
Continuing, he said, “say for example if that person doesn’t have a family member and ask an electoral official to cast the vote.I think it is absolutely important for confidentiality to be apart of this whole legislation. I have noticed that there are no provisions for penalties in terms of breaches that are committed in terms of the confidentiality issues. I do not believe it should be solely left up to the Director of Elections to take action in that particular regard,” said Senator Morris.
In the meantime the Senator said he wanted to ensure that persons who are visually impaired were able to cast their vote with confidence and independence.
“By this I mean the option must be widened in terms of providing that opportunity to cast their vote. I want us to move to the point as practiced elsewhere in countries such as Puerto Rico and Chile where the blind person is provided with his or her own ballot and there is a mechanism to deal with that. I believe the new Commission should take that under their charge,” he said.
Senator Morris added that the location for voting was absolutely critical especially as it related to individuals who have physical disabilities. He noted that “sometimes it is very difficult for these persons to climb stairs and so their dignity is sometimes eroded by you having to lift them up and take them up the stairs in building”.
The State Minister stressed that due care must be given to ensure that there was proper access to buildings in locations where there were large bands of disabled persons. “It can be done because there are temporary ramps that can be built and made available in terms of assisting a wheelchair user to go and cast their vote with relative ease,” he stated.
Senator Morris also said that electoral workers should receive training to sensitise them about how to interact with the disabled community.
“Sometimes persons might not know how to relate to a hearing impaired person and that must be taken into consideration. So I think that those things must be taken into consideration,” he said.
“As we work together to improve continuously the system of our democracy through the establishment of this Electoral Commission I believe that we are truly on our way in making sure that all of our citizens can participate in a meaningful way in the advancement of our democracy,” the State Minister asserted.