Case taken over voting rights of visually impaired

Representative of Blind Legal Alliance says there is no mechanism allowing him to cast his vote in secret

A campaigner for the visually impaired has brought a High Court action alleging the State has failed to provide a suitable mechanism enabling those with sight difficulties to vote by secret ballot.

Robert Sinnott, a representative of the Blind Legal Alliance, argues there is no mechanism allowing him or other visually impaired people to cast their vote in a manner respecting the secrecy of their votes.

Mr Sinnott, James’s Street, Dublin, claims the State is required, under the Constitution and European law, to provide the visually impaired with a means to vote in secret.

In proceedings against the Minister for the Environment, Ireland and the Attorney General, he is seeking orders compelling the respondents have such a mechanism in place on May 23rd, the date of the European and local elections.


Deprived his right
Mr Sinnott says he was unable to cast his vote in secret at recent elections because he had to ask the presiding officer at his polling station to complete his voting paper, therefore he was deprived of his right.

Despite repeated calls for a system allowing the visually impaired to cast their ballots in secret, the State had failed to put such a system in place, he says. Such mechanisms had been introduced in other EU member states, he added.

He claims that a system based on Braille documents or audio recordings would not be “prohibitively expensive”.

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley this week granted leave to Mr Sinnott to serve short notice of his proceedings on the State respondents.Patrick Dillon Malone SC said the matter was urgent given the proximity of polling day. The judge returned the proceedings to next week.