Government exploring new technology to safeguard blind voters’ privacy

The visually impaired want to be accompanied by a person of their trust in polling booths.

Representatives of the visual impaired in Malta have renewed their appeal to the government to amend electoral laws, and allow blind voters to have a person they trust assisting them while casting their vote.

Currently, representatives from the Electoral Commission and the political parties assist the blind voters.

“But we feel uncomfortable to vote by showing our voting preferences to four unknown persons that we have never met in our life. We deserve our privacy,” Frans Tirchett said on behalf of the visually impaired.

He told Sunday newspaper Illum how they have been lobbying for legal amendments for years, but so far, its efforts, most recently a failed 2007 court case, were all in vain.

“Most politicians show sympathy but fear that this amendment will leave room for abuse. It’s true, but this is a question of trust. After all this is practiced elsewhere in Europe.”

But contacted by Illum, Parliamentary Secretary for Disability Rights Franco Mercieca said the government is exploring other options.

“While we acknowledge the need for disabled persons to be assisted while casting their vote, the choice of this ‘trusted’ person is controversial. But in an effort to reach consensus with all the interested parties, the government is now exploring other advanced technological methods to safeguard the privacy of all disabled persons while voting,” the Parliamentary Secretary told the newspaper.

It is thought that visually impaired voters amount between 3,500 and 5,000 persons.

The blind are arguing that as mentioned in the UN Convention on rights of persons with disability, it is their right to cast their vote secretly, “either by assistive technology or through the assistance of a person of their choice.”

Tirchett said the safest way was the latter.

“Not every blind person knows braille, and persons who are blind from birth find it difficult to write numerical figures,” he underlined. 

KNPD Chairman Joe Camilleri backed the proposal of the voting assistance of a trusted person, and said that this lack of privacy goes against the spirit of the UN convention and Malta’s law for equal opportunities.

Read more in today’s edition of ILLUM.