The Institute for Human Rights in Moldova (IDOM) presented today, at a press conference at Info-Prim Neo, preliminary findings regarding the voting process of individuals with mental disabilities in Psychiatric Hospitals and Temporary Placement Centers for People with Disabilities during the General Local Elections.
The Institute for Human Rights in the Republic of Moldova (IDOM), with the financial support of the Eastern European Foundation and resources provided by Sweden, monitored the respect of electoral rights during the General Local Elections on November 5, 2023, in the three Psychiatric Hospitals and six Temporary Placement Centers for People with Disabilities.
The information presented at the press conference provides a preliminary assessment of the situation, with the formulation of proposals and recommendations for state authorities, in order to ensure the exercise of electoral rights for individuals with intellectual or psycho-social disabilities.
The monitoring process was carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Moldova and international standards in the field.
Since 2009, IDOM has been monitoring the conduct of elections in the Republic of Moldova. As a result of the presidential elections in 2016, IDOM initiated 4 cases of strategic litigation. As a result, by the decision of the Constitutional Court of October 11, 2018, the provisions of Article 13, paragraph (1), letter b) of the Electoral Code, adopted by Law no. 1381 of November 21, 1997, which imposed restrictions on the right to vote for persons declared incapable, were declared unconstitutional.
The observation activities of the General Local Elections on November 5, 2023, particularly in these institutions, have a special significance for ensuring the integrity of the electoral process and the exercise of the rights of individuals with mental disabilities to participate in the governance of their locality.
Out of the 2700 individuals present on election day at the aforementioned institutions, 2275 individuals with mental/intellectual disabilities had the right to vote. Only 650 people voted in the local election on November 5th.
Among the most important FINDINGS regarding the voting process on November 5, 2023, the following can be mentioned:
- The voting spaces were inaccessible to people with mobility impairments. Barriers included stairs, thresholds, non-standard ramps, inaccessible toilets, sub-standard narrow doors;
- The members of the polling stations did not have sufficient knowledge about the special rights of persons with disabilities, established in Article 29 of the CRPD;
- Lack of a mechanism to ensure the independence of the person assisted in exercising the right to vote;
- Hostile environment faced by beneficiaries of residential institutions in the voting process;
- Insufficient professional training of assistants in the targeted institutions regarding the permissible limits of voter assistance in the voting process;
- Some beneficiaries were not familiar with the steps to follow in the voting procedure, and were also not sufficiently informed about the role and importance of the electoral process.
- The mobile ballot box was not equipped with the necessary tools for people to exercise their right to vote: magnifying glass, template envelope, ballot papers in Braille.
- Some patients wanted to exercise their right to vote, but the law did not allow them, as in local elections the right to vote can only be exercised in the constituency where they are registered.
- Some sections in psychiatric hospitals, apparently, should have an open regime but all were closed.
- It is not clear why the mobile ballot box came if the polling station was on the hospital grounds and the patients could freely move to the station to vote. The fact is that the patients could not leave the institution freely and did not have identity documents with them, even though, in theory, they were there voluntarily. There were no on-call doctors in the sections who could have allowed the patients to leave.
- Establishment of a mechanism to assess the accessibility conditions of the premises designated for voting, with the right to validate or reject the proposed location;
- Ensuring all polling stations are equipped with tools (magnifying glass, equipment for enlarging text, stencil-envelope, ballot papers in Braille) to ensure the secret vote of people with visual impairments;
- Elaboration of a detailed procedure regarding the assurance of the elected person’s independence in assisted voting, including an explicit list of persons ineligible to perform the respective function;
- Pre-training of electoral officials on international and national standards to ensure the voting rights of persons with disabilities;
- Designation of a person to assist people with disabilities at each polling station;
- Periodic training of assistants in medical/residential institutions on the permissible limits of voter assistance in the voting process;
- Periodic organization of simulation sessions of the voting process to familiarise beneficiaries of the targeted institutions with the stages to be followed in an electoral process.
IDOM is set to produce a report that will include data collected through direct observation by a network of 29 independent observers, properly accredited by the Central Electoral Commission. The report will be subsequently published on the organisation’s official website – www.idom.md. The analysis and criticisms will be formulated in good faith, in a constructive and realistic manner, and the practical recommendations and suggestions will be presented in the spirit of professional cooperation with all those interested in promoting a fair, modern, transparent, and correct electoral process.