In preparation for 7 March general elections, for the very first time, every polling station in Sierra Leone received TactileBallot Guides. This allowed visually impaired or blind voters to cast their vote in complete independence and secrecy on the Election Day. A Tactile Ballot Guide is a folder into which ballot paper can be inserted. It has several box-shaped openings, allowing blind and visually impaired voters to correctly mark their ballot papers independently. On election day, for the first time ever, these guides will be used throughout Sierra Leone and will be found in every polling station nationwide.
Furthermore, a team of nineteen Assistant Voter Education and Training Officers (AVETOs) was deployed to educate persons with disabilities on how to vote and assist the blind and visually impaired in using the new guides. These efforts to promote a more inclusive process are supported by the “Support to the National Electoral Commission” (SNEC) project, funded the EU, Canada, Irish Aid, UK Aid and UNDP.
In response to a request from the Government of Sierra Leone and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) UNDP established a multi-donor project to support the technical preparations for voter registration and the 2018 elections. This follows a successful project that supported the NEC in the drawing of new electoral boundaries in 2016.
Previous Sierra Leone elections received large amounts of donor support, not only for technical assistance but also through meeting the cost of processes such as voter registration and polling itself. Recognizing the maturation of Sierra Leonean institutions, the project focuses only on key processes and areas that require support or improvement.