The Election Commission (EC) in Meghalaya has made arrangements to issue braille-enabled ballot papers at all polling booths in the state, as part of its efforts to ensure wider participation of voters in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Chief Electoral Officer F R Kharkongor said, “This EC initiative, a first in Meghalaya, will facilitate more than 800 visually impaired electorates to vote by a secret ballot.
The ballot paper pasted on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) will have the names and symbol of candidates in braille alphabets, he added.
Welcoming the move, the visually challenged voters in the state said that the initiative will ensure that they get to cast votes independently, without having to depend on anyone.
Bertha Dkhar, senior coordinator for education at NGO Bethany Society that works for visually impaired people said that she would urge every visually impaired voter to take advantage of the new ballot paper. "I used to take my confidant with me every time to the polling booth, as I found it difficult to locate the buttons and the serial numbers of the candidates. This time, I hope things will be different," Dkhar added.
Carmo Noronha, the executive director of the NGO said, “Persons with disability have been asking for something like this for a long time. We laud the efforts of the Election Commission. We are encouraging all differently abled persons to cast their votes."
Kharkongor, while talking to PTI, also said that the state election department running a campaign called 'No Voter to Be Left Behind.' "We are making preparations to make the election more inclusive. We have already mapped over 4,500 persons with disabilities to ensure that they get priority at the polling booths."
(inputs from PTI)
Further detailing the campaign he said that they have asked the social welfare department to provide workers at every poll booths to assist the aged and the differently abled. The election department has also launched a queue management app to ensure easy and hassle-free voting and has imparted training on sign languages to booth-level officials in close coordination with the Meghalaya Deaf Association.