Innovative Policy 2019 on Independent Living and Political Participation

Increasing Voter Accessibility in Paraguay

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the leading development funding agency in the United States. In anticipation of the 2015 municipal elections in Paraguay, USAID worked with the Paraguayan NGO Fundación Saraki to review the country’s legal election framework regarding accessibility and make recommendations to the Electoral Tribunal about increasing participation of voters with disabilities. These recommendations led to new regulations covering a range of accessibility measures, such as permitting absentee ballots for people unable to travel to polling stations for the first time. As of 2018, around 9,300 people had benefitted from the new regulations.

“The strength of democracy is expressed through citizen participation. I believe in democracy, and I believe in accessible elections for all.”

Mario Marecosa 2018 candidate for the House of Representatives and a person with a disability
About the policy at a glance
Laws and regulations involved:Resolution 270/14 of the Paraguayan Electoral Tribunal
Responsible Body:Fundación Saraki and the Electoral Tribunal
Country
of Implementation
Paraguay

FACTS & FIGURES

  • As of 2018, 1,069 people with disabilities had attended workshops and forums on electoral participation.
  • Civil society organizations and disabled persons organizations took part in electoral observations.

PROBLEMS TARGETED

In Paraguay there is a low level of electoral participation of people with disabilities, mainly due to a lack of a regulatory framework, policies, and procedures to support accessibility measures.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

Person with intellectual disability showing his finger stained as proof of exercising his right to vote.

Copyright: Fundacion Saraki, USAID Paraguay

Ahead of the 2015 municipal elections in Paraguay, USAID and Fundación Saraki reviewed the legal framework around accessibility in elections and made a list of recommendations to the national Electoral Tribunal. Based on these recommendations, the Electoral Tribunal endorsed a number of regulations to increase accessibility, such as providing absentee ballots for the first time and making information about voting available in sign language and Braille. Election staff and volunteers were trained on the new regulations, awareness-raising messages were run on national media, and political parties were encouraged to address the needs of persons with disabilities in their campaigns. A guide for promoting inclusive municipalities was also developed.

Notably, the new framework also empowered the first person with a severe physical disability to run for the House of Representatives in the 2018 national election. As of 2018, around 9,300 people with disabilities had benefitted from the new regulations, and 1,069 had attended forums and workshops on electoral participation.

OUTLOOK, TRANSFERABILITY AND FUNDING

The policy review was primarily funded by USAID in 2015 and 2016, with funding for 2017 and 2018 coming from the National Endowment for Democracy – a U.S. based non-profit foundation supporting the strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. Private companies have also provided non-financial support, such as broadcasters donating air time for communication campaigns.

The project has the potential to be replicated in future elections and could readily be adapted in other countries. USAID has already shared the strategies, actions, lessons learned, and good practices acquired in Paraguay through its national and international networks. The methodology could also be used to improve access to elections for other vulnerable population groups.

Person with physical disability voting.

Copyright: Fundacion Saraki, USAID Paraguay

CONTACT
FACTSHEET

Download factsheet as accessible word
download