On 20 December 2018, the Working Group on the Interaction of the CEC of Russia with All-Russian Public Organizations of Persons with Disabilities held its regular meeting with the election commissions of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation in a videoconference mode.
During the event, the results of the activities during the preparation and conduct of elections on a single voting day on 9 September 2018 of election commissions and public organizations involved in ensuring implementation of electoral rights of citizens with limitations due to reasons of health, were considered.
Opening the meeting, Chairperson of the CEC of Russia Ella Pamfilova said: “During the preparations for the elections, the CEC paid close attention to the inadmissibility of a formal attitude to the issues of ensuring the realization of electoral rights of citizens with disabilities. Problems associated with ensuring the implementation of electoral rights of this category of citizens must be addressed comprehensively and in close cooperation with state and local government bodies, including with social security agencies and public organizations of persons with disabilities. Particular attention in this work should be given to new mechanisms and capabilities that allow the transition to a high-tech voting system.”
Ella Pamfilova noted that one of the priorities in using modern electoral technologies is the creation of optimally comfortable voting conditions at polling stations for people with limited mobility and people with disabilities. In particular, the Mobile Voter mechanism provided this category of voters with an opportunity to cast their votes in the federal and regional elections at any convenient polling station, regardless of the place of registration.
“We continue to work in the field of advocacy, focused on the publication of special explanatory materials, as well as the use of the hotline, Internet sites of election commissions and other media platforms,” the head of the Central Election Commission said. - In the course of preparation for the elections, the possibilities of TV broadcasting were also used with the sign language dubbing and the running text line on the screen. However, in one third of the subjects of the Federation where regional elections were held, television programs were not adapted for people with hearing disabilities. The importance of this problem is obvious. On 18 December, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed an order according to which television channels, from 1 January 2020, will have to ensure that at least 5% of their broadcasting volume is accessible to people with hearing disabilities. ”
Ella Pamfilova stressed that plans to increase the accessibility of voting premises and provide them with necessary additional devices (ramps, railings, tactile indicators, call buttons, etc.) are being successfully implemented. An analysis of the accessibility of polling station premises showed that compared with the presidential elections of the Russian Federation in March 2018, the accommodation rates for the first and second (and higher) floors of buildings on the territory of the 33 subjects of the Russian Federation remained unchanged - 88% and 12 % respectively. But at the same time, the rate of accessibility of premises on the first floors grew by 8% and amounted to 60%, and the second floor decreased by 4% and amounted to 27%.
“But there are exceptions. For example, in the Republic of Buryatia, the availability of premises located on the second floors is 100%, in the Krasnoyarsk Territory - 90%, in the Nizhny Novgorod Region - 100%, - the head of the Central Election Commission noted. - Many commissions offer to solve the problems of accessibility of premises for voting within the framework of the state program “Accessible Environment”. We fully support this proposal.”
Ella Pamfilova also focused the attention of the meeting participants on a significant expansion in the system of election commissions of the practice of attracting volunteers and volunteer organizations to assist citizens with disabilities in exercising their voting rights. In the last election campaign, about 14,000 volunteers worked at 8,500 polling stations, which accounted for approximately 20% of their total number.
Deputy Chairman of the Working Group, Member of the CEC of Russia Nikolay Levichev spoke about the results of the practice of work of election commissions of 33 constituent entities of the Russian Federation, which held elections on a single voting day on 9 September 2018.
He stressed that information on voters with disabilities, which is represented by the Pension Fund of Russia, is of practical importance for election commissions and contributes to the planning of work. This information helps in clarifying and updating data on voters with disabilities, on equipping polling stations and premises for polling stations, and as well as for the advocacy work.
Nikolay Levichev noted that for the first time since the existence of the modern electoral system, the issue of attracting volunteers to assist voters with disabilities was settled, and electoral commissions actively used this resource.
However, according to the CEC of Russia, only 24% of precinct election commissions formed on the eve of the election campaign, have among their membership representatives of public organizations of persons with disabilities, social workers, citizens with disabilities, sign language interpreters, which constitutes only 5% of the total number of PEC members. The largest number of PECs (95%), having the above-named representatives, is located in Moscow, in the Oryol and Pskov regions - 43% each. At the same time, the bulk of them are social workers.
Representatives of four election commissions of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation spoke at the meeting via videoconference. The Chairman of the Election Commission of the Republic of Kalmykia, Alexander Dikalov, spoke about the successful work of the republican electoral commission to ensure the availability of voting facilities. In particular, he said that for already two years in the region, all 250 polling stations were on the first floors and there are ramps and handrails everywhere.
Georgy Seleznev, Deputy Chairman of the Election Commission of the Ulyanovsk Region, shared his experience of the interaction of election commissions with the regional social security authorities in realizing the electoral rights of persons with disabilities. Within the framework of an agreement between the regional election commission and the Ministry of Health of the Ulyanovsk region, joint training of members of commissions and representatives of social protection authorities is being carried out on ensuring the electoral rights of persons with disabilities.
Pyotr Batyrev, Chairman of the Election Commission of the Kemerovo Region, spoke about the successful development of the volunteer movement in the region. Voting took place at 1,673 polling stations, volunteers worked on 1,450 polling stations that day. The total number of volunteers who provided assistance to voters was 2,100 people.”
Nikolai Nevedomsky, Chairman of the Election Commission of the Amur Region, also shared the experience of the regional electoral commission in ensuring the electoral rights of citizens with disabilities.
“There are problems in the regions. Not everywhere quick and efficient equipping a barrier-free environment can be done,” said Ella Pamfilova, Chairperson of the CEC of Russia. “Therefore, we must proceed from the specifics of the regions, look for opportunities, use available resources. If it is not possible, as in some regions, to organize all premises on the first floors and equip them with the necessary means, then at least you need to look for solutions and make the most of the Mobile Voter mechanism. Maybe find it is needed to find the most adapted polling station, which can be turned into a special station, convenient for people with disabilities from all points of view. They can register at this site and vote there. We need to look for various options.”
The draft plan of the CEC of Russia on interaction with organizations of persons with disabilities for 2019 outlines measures to create a barrier-free environment in terms of the implementation of electoral rights of persons with disabilities.
The Chairperson of the CEC of Russia also noted the need to pay more attention to outreach activities, taking into account the specifics of the limitations of citizens with disabilities, to improve the approaches of election commissions in this direction.
Ella Pamfilova stressed that the CEC of Russia will make maximum efforts to improve the conditions for the implementation of electoral rights of citizens with disabilities. The Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation will summarize the relevant proposals in order to apply them in practice and at the legislative level.
Photo: Press Center of the CEC of Russia