Political rights

16.1 Many people with disabilities are unable to exercise their right to vote because polling stations are often inaccessible and because polling procedures, like cards and ballot papers, are not disability friendly. People with disabilities do not have a right to a postal vote.

16.2 A working party recommended in 1983 that a list of eligible postal voters (including people with disabilities) should be compiled each year alongside the electoral register. This recommendation was not accepted on the grounds that postal voting was open to abuse. No evidence was presented to the Commission that there is such a risk of abuse from postal voting by people with disabilities.

16.3 The Electoral Act 1992 provides for a very limited form of voting for people with disabilities. Those who are unable to vote in person at their polling station because of physical illness or physical disability can have their names recorded on a "special voters" list. A presiding officer together with a Garda calls to people on the 'special' list with the ballot paper which must be completed there and then. The legislation also provides that a person whose name is not on the special voters list who satisfies the returning officer that he or she is unable by reason of physical illness or physical disability to vote at the appropriate polling station may be allowed to vote at a more accessible polling station.

16.4 In view of the obvious inadequacies of the present arrangements, the Commission's recommends that all polling stations, booths and procedures should be made accessible for people with disabilities.

16.5 The Department of the Environment should provide a special budgetary allocation in order to ensure that this recommendation will be brought into effect as a matter of priority. A senior officer in the Department should review all voting procedures in consultation with people with disabilities and make sure that all necessary changes are introduced. This would include the printing of photographs of the candidates on ballot papers in order to assist people in voting; the design of polling booths; and the production of voting papers appropriate to the needs of people with disabilities (e.g. In braille).

16.6 People with disabilities who are unable to attend at a polling station should be entitled to be registered on a postal voting register and should be entitled to a postal vote.

16.7 People with disabilities are under represented amongst candidates for election and elected politicians at both local and national levels. Political parties have not taken sufficient positive action to encourage people with disabilities to stand for election and the Commission recommends that all parties should establish affirmative action programmes to encourage people with disabilities to participate fully in local, national and European politics.