30th March 2017
For Immediate Release
National Council for the Blind welcomes historic move which will finally allow blind people to vote in secret
- Case taken by Robbie Sinnott, an individual who is blind, against the Department of the Environment and the State, was heard in July 2016.
- NCBI has been campaigning for introduction of accessible voting methods to allow people with sight loss to vote in secret.
- People who are blind or vision impaired currently vote using the ‘trusted friend’ method.
The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) has welcomed today’s High Court ruling, which will finally allow people who are blind or vision impaired to vote in secret for the first time, following a case taken against the State by Robbie Sinnott, who is blind.
In Ireland, people with sight loss are entitled to enlist the assistance of a ‘trusted friend’ when casting their ballot. They are also entitled to the assistance of the presiding officer, who can mark the ballot paper on their behalf. But that system denied someone who is blind or vision impaired the right to cast a secret ballot and they have no way of verifying that the person assisting them has marked the ballot paper in the way they requested.
One of the more commonly used methods to enable people who are blind or vision impaired to vote is a tactile ballot template.
NCBI’s CEO, Chris White states that successive governments failed to prioritise the right to vote independently for people with sight loss.
“The right to vote and the right to vote in secret are fundamental to the democracy that the vast majority of Irish citizens enjoy. However, people who are blind or vision impaired have, to date, been excluded. Today’s ruling has broken down one more barrier to enabling people who are blind or vision impaired to fully participate in society.”
“NCBI has been asking the State to investigate the feasibility of accessible voting methods for eight years but little progress was made and the State failed to live up to its commitments to prioritise accessible voting. NCBI fully supported Mr Sinnott in his case and are pleased that his perseverance and commitment has led to much-needed change.”
According to 2011 Census, there are currently 51,718 people with sight loss in Ireland, with 90% aged over 18 and therefore eligible to vote. Last November, the State introduced legislation which allowed for the introduction of a tactile voting device for referenda and that is currently in development.
Tactile voting devices, or tactile ballot templates are used in other countries, including the UK to facilitate accessible voting. Elsewhere, accessible voting is also facilitated through telephone and internet voting. NCBI believes that, ultimately, a suite of accessible voting options would be the most appropriate.
Chris White said: “We will be happy to work with the State to ensure that the right solution is found and will provide awareness and training for tactile ballot templates or any other system that is put in place. We will also continue to work towards long-term solutions, such as internet and/or telephone voting.”
Notes to the Editor:
Chris White, CEO of NCBI, is available for comment on request.
- NCBI is the national NCBI is the national charity working for the rising number of people affected by sight loss in Ireland. We provide practical and emotional support to help people with sight loss face their futures with confidence.
- There are currently 51,718 people with sight loss in Ireland. (Census 2011)
- A tactile voting device, or tactile ballot template, is placed over the ballot paper and includes Braille and embossed numbers, with a cut out square over the slot where the ballot is marked. The device is removed from the ballot paper, which is folded and placed in the ballot box.
- Templates are currently in use in Austria, Germany and the UK and have the advantage of being cost effective and low tech.
For more information and interviews with Chris White and Robbie Sinnott please contact:
Róisín Maxwell, Communications Executive, firstname.lastname@example.org
01 2710127/085 7628536