Persons with disabilities were not allowed to vote independently, in secrecy and with dignity on Parliamentary elections in Montenegro

For the first time, the Union of the Blind systematically monitored the accessibility at polling stations on election day in all three regions of Montenegro.

Fifty (50) mobile observers from the Union of the Blind visited 505 polling stations in 20 municipalities.  The observers monitored the conduct of the electoral process with regard to accessibility of polling stations and voting materials for persons with disabilities. 14 persons with different types of disabilities have been included in all project implementation stages, including as observers, analysts, and call centre operators.

Five different categories were included in the monitoring: surrounding area of polling stations, access route, polling station entrance area, work of polling boards, and the manner in which polling stations were set up with regard to physical accessibility and voting materials. In addition, the Union observers assessed the inclusion of the composition of polling boards and the availability of voting materials for voters with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities were absent from the composition of polling boards. Only 17 out of 505 observed polling stations had PWD representatives in the polling board, which means that people with disabilities are not recognized as equal participants in the electoral process.

The observers also recorded the answers of the members of the polling boards who showed an inadequate approach towards persons with disabilities. For example, to the question "Are there any disabled people among members of the polling boards?", one of the observers received the answer: "Thank God we don't have any, we are all healthy."

The polling stations were not arranged in such a way as to allow the independent and unhindered movement of persons with disabilities.

Only 21.4 percent of the observed polling stations were fully accessible to the visually impaired, which means that at these polling stations two voting templates and two brochures in Braille were available together with other voting materials on the table of the polling board, and that the tactile tapes were correctly placed.

The voting template, which enables the secrecy of voting for visually impaired people, followed the appearance of the ballot paper and was made of stronger material. Two voting templates were available at 95.8 % percent of polling stations. However, in as many as 37.4 percent of polling stations, templates were not on the table with other election materials.

In order for every visually impaired person to be able to familiarize themselves with the content of the ballot, two brochures in Braille were supposed to be at each polling station, which was mostly complied with, namely at 93.5 percent of the observed polling stations.

Regarding the establishment of polling stations for visually impaired people, tactile tapes, which should contrast with the color of the floor, were not installed in as many as 66.5 percent of observed polling stations. Tactile tapes, where they were installed, were mostly of contrasting colors and were most often installed correctly, in 22.4  percent, thus enabling the independent movement of a person with completely or partially impaired vision at the polling station.

These findings show that persons with disabilities were not able to exercise their right to vote in a dignified, independent and secret manner on election day. In the following period, the Union will publish a final report with detailed recommendations in order to continue effectively advocating the accessibility of the electoral process for persons with disabilities.


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