Do persons with disabilities have the right to vote by secret ballot in election?


This question is referring to every voter’s inalienable right to vote secretly. The question refers to the electoral processes at all levels (local, national, etc). 

In detail


Results show a positive general figures, with 50% of responses confirming every voter has the right to vote by secret ballot, and 38% stating this is only achieved partially and that voters may not be able to vote secretly. Comments highlighted the following issues:

  • Blind or intellectual disabilities restrictions: In several countries, people with visual impairment, psychosocial disabilities cannot vote secretly, they need to vote through their assistant. In some cases, there are also no wheelchair accessibility, and PWDs have to wait for mobile teams to go to their homes to vote
  • Illiteracy rate among PWDs: Illiteracy of PWDs harshly limits the capacity of PWDs to vote, it is common that PWDs are “used” for fraud.
  • Voting assistants and confidentiality: Many respondents have claimed voting assistants serve as pure support to people who do not have the capacity to vote.

However, some practical alternatives and accessible voting facilities were highlighted: application for postal vote, home or e-voting, mobile ballot boxes, braille, large print or audio ballots and isolated polling booths facilities for secret voting with set measures for wheelchair access.


“The Electoral Code of Benin provides that any person with physical and visual disabilities may be assisted by a person of their choice; although it is a reasonable accommodation, the measure violates the secrecy of the vote. Also in regarding people with intellectual disabilities and psychosocial disabilities, not excluding them explicitly, however, the law has no provision for their support in the exercise of the right to vote and the reality is that these people do not vote and we have not yet seen a case of judicial complaint that fact.” (Géronime Tokpo, Fédération des Associations de Personnes Handicapées du Bénin (FAPHB), President of the Working Committee for the restructuration of FAPHB, member of DPI, Benin)


“[…]While significant progress has been made, the task of ensuring that the federal electoral process is fully accessible is far from complete. At times, the right to vote is meaningless since election administration staff or others can effectively violate this right. More work is needed in making sure that Elections Canada’s policies are properly applied by election day personnel; ensuring that interpreters are available for persons with hearing disabilities; and, enabling alternative methods of voting and registering to vote.” (Tara Brinston, Canadian Association for Community Living, Canada)


“GFD has pushed for the use of tactile ballot jacket for the visually impaired, use of sign language at registration and polling centers. GFD continues to push for the accessibility of all registration and polling centers, accessible ballot boxes and positive discrimination so that PWDs y do not join queues to register or to vote.” (Debra YAW OFORI, PRESIDENT, member of DPI, GHANA FEDERATION OF THE DISABLED, Ghana)

CRPD Article

Article 29: participation in political and public life

“States Parties shall guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others, and shall undertake:

a) To ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected, inter alia, by:

  1. Ensuring that voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use;
  2. Protecting the right of persons with disabilities to vote by secret ballot in elections and public referendums without intimidation, and to stand for elections, to effectively hold office and perform all public functions at all levels of government, facilitating the use of assistive and new technologies where appropriate;
  3. Guaranteeing the free expression of the will of persons with disabilities as electors and to this end, where necessary, at their request, allowing assistance in voting by a person of their own choice;

b) 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, including:

  1. Participation in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country, and in the activities and administration of political parties;
  2. Forming and joining organizations of persons with disabilities to represent persons with disabilities at international, national, regional and local levels.”

(UN Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities)