The electoral process and the visually impaired in Zambia: absolute or discriminatory?

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Mileji, Pauline
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University of Zambia
The purpose of this study was to assess the electoral process in relation to the visually impaired so as to determine whether it is discriminatory or absolute. The objectives were to determine the level of participation of the VI in the electoral process; analyze the legal framework guaranteeing the participation of the visually impaired persons in national affairs; to determine the challenges that hinder the participation of the Visually Impaired in the electoral process; and to identify the strategies or measures that have been put in place to ensure effective participation of the VI in the electoral process. The study employed a phenomenological research design. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used to collect and analyse data. A purposive sampling technique was employed. The sample size comprising of forty men and ten women. From the researcher’s category of respondents, one official ZAPD, one official ECZ, one official FODEP, one official from ZFPD, one official from ZLFB and fourty-five Visually Impaired persons randomly selected from the streets and schools. Data was collected through interviews, questionnaires, focus group discussions and observation. Data was analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. The findings from this study revealed that despite the fact that the legal framework in Zambia provides for the conduct of elections by means of a secret ballot. The practice has been that the visually impaired voters are subjected to the assistance of a third party that is required to mark the ballot paper on their behalf. Despite the braille jacket which will be used in the 2016 elections by the visually impaired by slotting in a ballot paper and be able to identify a candidate of their choice, by no means will this be used by the visually impaired who are illiterate because braille is as good as reading and writing of which the uneducated visually impaired will still need assistance to vote. The study recommends that the law must not be discriminatory in its effect or application. In this regard, there is need to adopt alternative voting and participation mechanisms that will allow visually impaired voters to vote independently and exercise their right to a secret ballot. This will enhance their full participate in the electoral process.
Master of Education in Civic Education
Elections--Zambia , People with visual disabilities--Education