National Election Access Observation Held by Haitians with Disabilities
Building on the success of a pilot observation held in Port-au-Prince during Haiti’s legislative elections in August, a second observation was expanded to six different cities for the country’s legislative and presidential elections held on October 25, 2015.
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) collaborated with the Haitian Office of the Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities (Bureau du Secrétaire d’Etat à l’Intégration des Personnes Handicapées [BSIEPH]) to recruit 30 persons with disabilities from the cities of Cap-Haïtien, Gonaïves, Hinche, Jérémie and Les Cayes, in addition to 30 observers with disabilities from Port-au-Prince. Fifteen polling places were assessed in the capital of Port-au-Prince, while an additional 15 polling places were examined across the country.
On Election Day, observers in all six cities traveled to schools, government buildings and other institutions chosen as polling places by the Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil Électoral Provisoire [CEP]). Upon arrival, they quietly examined the physical structure of the building and the polling room for any potential accessibility concerns and waited to see if voters with disabilities arrived and if they received assistance from poll workers when they did.
A large debriefing was held on October 29 in Port-au-Prince for all 60 observers and five regional coordinators from BSEIPH to share their observations, thoughts and experiences, eventually crafting a preliminary list of recommendations for improvement. Several observers noted that many access issues – including building structures, readiness of CEP poll workers and limited transportation options – were not unique to Port-au-Prince and could be seen in cities across Haiti.
In addition, observers keenly emphasized the need for more accessible election materials, from voter education to ballots, advocating for the provision of information in audio or tactile formats (such as braille) and in sign language. A robust conversation on transportation and the location of voting places also followed, with observers urging the CEP and other Haitian government institutions to begin addressing a dire need for access to political participation.
The final report, a combination of observation findings and recommendations for future action, will be published jointly by IFES and BSEIPH in French and will be released by December 2015.