Voting rights for people with disabilities

The Fund monitors the exercise of active and passive suffrage of people with disabilities during the election campaign and on election day.
Issues related to the realization of the electoral rights of persons with disabilities are directly related to the participation of this category of citizens in the public and political life of the country.

In turn, the inclusion of social and political processes directly affects the eradication of all forms of discrimination against people with disabilities.

The entire international community was committed to eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities, ensuring their right to work, health, education and full participation in society, access to justice, freedom from exploitation, freedom of movement and individual mobility.

It is important to note that it is not assistance to a disabled person, but ensuring equal rights with other citizens should be the goal of state policy.
The Foundation conducted its first monitoring in 2016,
during the campaign of extraordinary elections to the Mazhilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan and different levels of maslikhats of the country from January 21 to March 21, 2016.

To ensure the right to elect and be elected, we have narrowed down the field of monitoring and highlighted the key groups of parameters on which it was conducted.

In particular, this:

Physical accessibility
Equipment of polling stations
Provision of special services on voting day
Election activity of focus group representatives
In addition, through requests to authorized state bodies, a number of legislative and practical problems have been identified in ensuring that people with disabilities exercise their constitutional right to elect and be elected.

After the monitoring and implementation of the independent observation campaign, the Foundation and its partners presented a report, which was followed by several round tables, and thanks to which the situation has shifted and the Central Election Commission (CEC) created a commission on the implementation of electoral rights of people with disabilities.

In order to ensure the electoral rights of citizens with disabilities, amendments and additions were made to the Constitutional Act on elections in Kazakhstan on 29 June 2018 for the first time in electoral practice.

In particular, the following rules are envisaged:

- Article 18 (paragraph 4-1) provides that precinct election commissions shall take necessary measures for realization of election rights of citizens with limited opportunities;

- Article 39 (paragraph 1-1) provides that when equipping the voting premises, the conditions for unhindered access to and voting in the voting premises of citizens with limited capacities must be provided;

- Article 48 (paragraph 2-1) provides that local executive bodies are obliged to assist electoral commissions in their work to ensure electoral rights of citizens with limited opportunities.

For Kazakhstan, that was the first step towards creating a barrier-free environment, since most of the facilities where polling stations are located are education, healthcare and other facilities on the balance of the state budget.

The next stage should be monitoring by the society and the Electoral Commission on the observance of these norms, attraction and notification of people with disabilities about their rights and opportunities at the polling station.
The Foundation conducted a second monitoring in 2019,
as part of the campaign to monitor the extraordinary presidential election between the announcement of the extraordinary election and voting day, 9 June 2019.

During this period of the campaign, we focused on the right to be elected and selected several key parameters that were included:

1
Physical accessibility
2
Equipment of polling stations
3
Provision of special services on voting day

Despite the amendments made to the Decree No. 21/183 of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated October 23, 2012 "On Approval of the Instruction on equipping the voting room at the polling station, the voting point", where a new chapter was introduced: "Features of equipping the voting room for citizens with disabilities".

From 2019 onwards, the following conditions should apply to all polling stations:

1
At the entrance to the building where the voting rooms (points) are located, handrails, decking, ramps and other necessary devices must be provided (temporary devices are allowed).
2
Voting booths shall be as accessible as possible to citizens with disabilities, placed on the ground floors or have lifting mechanisms to move to other floors.
3
Voting booths shall be equipped with: tactile signs (if possible), a secret ballot booth, taking into account access by voters with locomotor disabilities, including wheelchair users.
4
Specially equipped place (corner) for citizens with disabilities, (computer with materials about elections in the format adapted for citizens with disabilities, (headphones, special folder with information about elections in Braille, etc.).
In addition, local executive bodies may set up special polling stations for voting by citizens with disabilities.
And at the moment they are specialized houses for elderly people and people with disabilities.
Currently, only one election has taken place under the amended Instruction on Voting Room Equipment and amended paragraphs of the Constitutional Law on Elections.

The participation of observers in the 2019 elections affected the openness and fairness of the elections, as well as the timely prevention of violations at polling stations and voter education.

Moreover, we can see that in the elections held in 2019, significant progress was made in complying with the guidelines and rules of the electoral law, especially in preparing polling stations for voting by all citizens, including people with disabilities.


Much work remains to be done to make polling stations accessible to people with disabilities, ensuring full self-reliance.

Recommendations for the Central Election Commission and state bodies:

1
In line with the recommendations of UN treaty bodies, develop and adopt anti-discrimination legislation, including for people with disabilities
2
To legally establish a mechanism for preparing cost estimates for the adaptation and partial modernization of polling stations to meet the needs of people with disabilities during any election campaign.
3
Accelerate the process of modernization and partial adaptation of social infrastructure facilities in terms of accessibility for people with disabilities. Carry out the process of passporting social facilities in a more transparent way.
4
Precinct premises and the approaches to polling stations must comply with the SNIP standards for small mobile populations.
5
At least one voting booth inside the polling station is needed, equipped for people with disabilities, e.g. wheelchair users, visually impaired people. The area of the stall should be sufficient for manoeuvring in the wheelchair and visual materials, as well as a table for filling in ballots, should be at an appropriate level to ensure accessibility for the person in the wheelchair.
6
Information materials during the pre-election promotion should be available for all categories of people with disabilities (in a wheelchair as low as possible; by sight, the materials should be available both in Braille and audio; there should be a specialist in sign language at the station and the station should be equipped with online translation into sign language and back; at all meetings, radio and television programs there should be a translator of sign language).
7
The election commission shall include people with disabilities.
8
People with disabilities who cannot leave the apartment due to their lost life support functions should be provided with all materials related to elections and voting, and home visits should be provided.
9
To review approaches and principles of statistical accounting of people with disabilities in order to ensure the realization of political rights of this category of population.
10
To create a single register of people with disabilities by polling station in the country in order to determine: the number of people with disabilities both in the country as a whole and at each polling station; the number of people with disabilities at each polling station by the characteristics of these people (visually impaired, hearing impaired, spinal cord disabled, etc.). This practice will make it possible to use budget funds more rationally when forming the budget for elections.
11
. To develop and approve the Resolution of the CEC of the RK "On measures of realization of the active electoral right of people with disabilities of I, II, III groups of disabilities".
This decision regulates the provision of the following social services on voting day to each person with I, II, III disability group, if necessary:
⦁ individual assistant on the voting day for those with mobility difficulties, blind and visually impaired;
⦁ a specialist in sign language for the deaf and hearing impaired;
⦁ transportation (Invataxi) for arrivals/ departures on polling day to the polling station.


This ordinance also further confirms the obligation:
⦁ to include the costs of these events in the election cost estimates submitted to the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan;
⦁ in order to save budget funds, maintain a single voter register of people with disabilities of I, II, III groups;
⦁ to assign responsibility for contracting and monitoring the quality of social services to the relevant departments of employment and social programmes.
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