Moldova offers better ballot access to people with disabilities
17 December 2014. Nicolae Ciobanu lives in a world that never sees daylight. Even though he is blind, he travels frequently, works self-sufficiently, and votes in every election. In last month’s parliamentary election, Nicolae for the first time casted his vote independently, without any outside assistance in understanding the ballot.
Moldova’s election process introduced a simple “sleeve envelope” which is a perforated sheet made of thin plastic, specially designed to insert the ballot. The visually impaired can touch and identify the number of the chosen political party by counting the openings in the sleeve and then mark the ballot on the specially designated space.
“I was very happy and proud that as a citizen, I can now really vote secretly, that I can express my opinion without the help of any another person, even the most trusted one,” said Mr. Ciobanu.
The sleeve envelope was piloted and tested for the first time in only one polling station in Chisinau in the 2010 elections. With the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through its Moldova Democracy Programme, funded by the Governments of Sweden and Norway, all polling stations in Moldova were equipped with standardized electoral equipment, including for people with special needs.
- 7,000 voting booths and 10,000 ballot boxes are part of UNDP’s assistance to make elections in Moldova more inclusive and up-to-date.
- The visually impaired can vote independently and secretly by using specially designed sleeve envelopes for ballots.
- People in wheel chairs can cast their vote in the special booth for people with special needs.
The Moldova Democracy Programme helps enhance the capacity of the Parliament and the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) to better carry out its main functions and bring gender and human rights aspects into the formal political process. To date, the programme has helped compile gender-disaggregated data like number of women and men voters, improve access to elections for persons with disabilities, help CEC become an ISO-certified elections management body, and create a valid voter register.
Ludmila Iachim has been in wheelchair since the age of 13, but for the first time she could vote outside her home at an actual polling station.
“This year I decided to vote in a polling station and it is very important for everybody – persons with disabilities - to have access to it,” said Ms. Iachim. She voted, most of all for equal rights for everyone and a more accessible life for the people with special needs.
For the first time in its history, all polling stations in Moldova and abroad were equipped with standardized electoral equipment – ballot boxes and voting booths, including for people with special needs. The procurement of the electoral materials, including more than 7,000 voting booths and 10,000 ballot boxes are part of UNDP’s assistance to make elections in Moldova more inclusive and up-to-date.
The total cost of the electoral equipment was US$ 436 000, funded by the Government of Moldova and the Government of Norway.
“This is not about one event, this is not about the day of election itself takes place, it is about the work before hand, to make the systems stronger, it’s about the work afterwards, to analyze what could have been done better in order to keep improving the democratic process and keep improving the transparency and the robustness of the electoral process,” said Nicola Harrington-Buhay, UN Resident Coordinator in Moldova.