As Guyana prepares for elections in just over two weeks, the Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission, Justice Claudette Singh is lobbying for changes to be made to the Constitution that would allow persons with disabilities to vote by themselves.
As it is, persons with disabilities vote by proxy.
This morning, the Guyana Council of Organization for Persons with Disabilities joined forces with the International Republic Institute to host a voters education campaign for members of the disabled community.
Speaking at the event, Justice Singh noted that in keeping with inclusionary measures, the Constitution ought to cater more for persons with disabilities when it comes to their voting rights and being able to vote by themselves.
“Presently, there is no provision in our legislation for persons with a disability to vote really, Representation of the People’s Act Chapter 103 does not make a provision to enable a person, whose blind or physically incapacitated to vote independently” the GECOM Chair noted.
She added that even as the legislation has certain provisions to allow a person living with a disability to vote by proxy, she has heard many complaints over the years of persons designated to vote for a disabled person not sticking with the choice of the disabled person.
“Section 133 of the Representation of the People Act confers a right to vote by proxy for persons who are unable, or likely to be unable to by reason of blindness or another physical incapacity to go in person to the polling place or if able to go and vote on aided, this method of voting does not always go well with persons with disabilities, since there is concern that they cannot guarantee that the individual will vote in conformity with instruction of the visually impaired, unless you may have a close relative or friend. While Gecom is sympathetic with these complaints it is necessary to have this legislation implemented ” Singh explained
She said GECOM will ensure steps are taken to ensure no person is disadvantaged.
The voter education initiative for persons with disabilities has received support from the US Embassy.
Ambassador Sarah Ann Lynch said the programme is an important one as it supports a diverse group.
Similar workshops will take place in other regions in the coming weeks.