Mohamed Saddan sheds light on the unique experiences of a blind person exercising their right to vote, despite the constitutional assurance of freedom in choosing a candidate and voting discreetly.
Saddan recounted an incident from a previous election when a candidate, running in the civic polls, pointed to a choice on the ballot paper and instructed his helper to mark it for Saddan. Saddan was unaware of this incident until his assistant, who had cast the vote, revealed the story. Despite his concerns, Saddan had placed his faith in his aide's judgment.
However, following the amendment to the Presidential Election Act in June, Saddan left the polling station with a sense of elation after independently casting his vote in the 2023 presidential election.
"I'm very happy. Now, I have the assurance that my vote is my own secret," he expressed.
Saddan believes that this change will address many of the challenges faced in the past, particularly the influence and pressure exerted by families and the difficulty in finding a dependable person each time.
"The Constitution guarantees equal rights for all, but the right of the blind to vote independently has been realized today, 16 years later," Saddan said.
Saddan's experience is not unique; the country has a population of over 800 individuals with varying degrees of blindness.
Hussain Shareef, Vice-President of the Blind Association, also shared his past challenges, emphasizing the significance of this development.
"Until now, we had to rely on someone else every time we wanted to vote. Today, that dependence has ended, and it's a dream come true," he said.
The recent amendment to the Presidential Election Act introduced the use of a plastic template designed to be temporarily placed inside the ballot paper, allowing individuals with visual impairments to cast their votes independently. The template includes a cutout indicating where the mark should be placed to vote, marking a significant milestone in the quest for equal voting rights.