Putting a cross in a ballot box may seem like the easiest thing for most people, but Shaun* is one of those individuals who need assistance to make his mark. He cannot make a cross in a box owing to his physical disability which sees him confined to a wheelchair with little use of his arms and legs. At election time, he needs someone else to help him through the process.
Shaun is a 53-year-old white South African man who believes in the power of the ballot box. He’s been voting religiously since 1994 despite his inability to write on his own or even hold a pen with his hand. For him voting is a daunting process that involves being pushed around in his wheelchair and waiting in a queue. He says he hates the process but also feels that he needs to play a role in deciding on the governance of the country.
This past Monday, August 1, Shaun woke up early, as he usually does, to cast his special vote at the Parkhust Primary School in Randburg. Arriving at the voting station with his helper, Zodwa, Shaun asked one of the IEC officials to make a cross on his behalf but without giving any reason the official refused.
“No IEC representative could make a cross for me”, said Shaun. Zodwa came to his rescue, making the mark on his behalf. Shaun says it was the first time he had had someone from IEC decline to assist him which made him feel as if the voting process is not accommodating of people with disabilities.
His says he is not happy with various issues facing the country like the corruption, lack of jobs and the contracting economy. Shaun says he wants to be part of driving change in South Africa. “We need change, the corruption and all these other things are becoming impossible to bear now. Without our collective votes, that change will never come,” Shaun said.
Shaun was among a record 700 000 registered special voters for this year’s municipal elections. Those are the people who, by law, applied for special voting because they couldn’t travel to the voting station on Election Day for a variety of reasons including disability or pregnancy. Others registered because they couldn’t be in their respective regions on the day and thus voted on predetermined special voting days, August 1 and 2.