ANKARA, Turkey (ViaNews) – The Supreme Electoral Council (SEC) of Turkey had recently confirmed the use of tactile ballot papers for the June 24 election but later denied the budget request for the process.
Engin Yilmaz, the head of Engelsiz Erişim Derneği (Barrier-free Access Association), a charity organisation that supports disabled people, stated to the Turkish news publication, Bianet, that the Supreme Electoral Council failed to do what needs to be done concerning the protection of voting confidentiality for visually impaired citizens. Instead, Yilmaz said, the SEC is laying the budget burden on our organization.
For years, visually impaired people in Turkey have been struggling for their civil rights but still, they are not able to vote without a companion, as stated in the legal regulations. Engin Yilmaz demanded from SEC to provide the necessary platform for these people and even offered to provide the tactile ballot papers, with the help of his team. However, since papers cost 4 Turkish lira per person, his budget demand faced rejection by the SEC.
The SEC further said that they [charity organisation] were free to prepare and use these special ballot papers but the government was unable to fund them.
“At the moment there are an estimated 400.000 visually challenged people in this country and some of them are voters. We’re not talking about a huge budget, however, the government is not willing to fund it. This is a serious issue of human rights. We’ll find a way to fund the budget ourselves if we have to. We want the peace of mind of knowing how to vote in the next elections and ensure that our votes are legally secured”, Yilmaz told Bianet.
Turkey is a member of the UN and is obligated to guarantee the voting rights of persons with disabilities. According to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities article 29, there’s a need to “promote actively an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in the conduct of public affairs, without discrimination and on an equal basis with others, and encourage their participation in public affairs”.