Wednesday 22 November 2017

Legal challenge brought to State by sight impaired over ability to vote

A 15-year-old boy has pleaded not guilty to assaulting a school principal
A 15-year-old boy has pleaded not guilty to assaulting a school principal

A LEGAL challenge is being brought over the State's failure to provide a suitable mechanism to allow people with sight difficulties to vote in May's European and Local Elections by secret ballot.

The High Court action is being brought by Robert Sinnott who is a representative of the Blind Legal Alliance campaign group.

He says there is currently no mechanism in place that allows him or other visually impaired people to cast their vote in a manner that respects the secrecy of their votes.

In his action, Mr Sinnott, Riverrun, James Street, Dublin, says the State has a legal duty, under both the Constitution and European Law, to provide him and other visually impaired people with a means whereby they can vote in secret.

In proceedings against the Minister for the Environment, Community, and Local Government, Ireland and the Attorney General, he seeks orders compelling the State to put a mechanism in place on May 23, the date of the European and Local Elections, which will enable him to vote by secret ballot.

He has brought the proceedings arising out of his inability to cast his vote in secret at recent elections.

This he says is because he could not read our make out the ballot sheet on his own.

He says he had to ask the Presiding Officer at his local polling station to complete his voting paper for him, and was thus he claims deprived of his right to a secret ballot.

He says that a system, such as the introduction of Braille documents or audio recordings, allowing him and other visually impaired persons to vote secretly is "not prohibitively expensive" to adapt or maintain.

Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley granted him leave to serve the proceedings at short notice on the State. Leave was granted on a one-side only represented basis.

The matter comes back before the court next week.

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