I woke up to a cold and wet day. The sun was covered by grey clouds and the air felt so humid that I was tempted to stay in bed for the whole day. Or, at least the morning. Yesterday, there was very bad weather in Malta and this morning is was still raining heavily. But, today, I remembered half of Malta was having its local council elections. And, yes, my council happened to be part of that half!
I don’t usually like to wake up early on a weekend but there I was after finishing my breakfast, wondering whether I should spare 30 minutes of my morning to exercise my civic right. My arthritis begged me to stay put and, for a few moments, I was going to give in to the call of the soft pillow, the warm feeling of being under my quilt with an electric heater warming up the room. But, after a lot of hesitation, on one hand, and the resistance of my stiff joints, I got up and dressed.
I waited for my father who was offering to take me there and mounted on my manual wheelchair. It was cold and when you’re sitting down and have the wind hitting you as you are pushed on the pavements and streets. Ok, given the poor design of the pavements on my locality, we travelled mostly on the sides of streets. Yes, we may be hit by a passing car but, on second thoughts, on some pavements I would surely fall on one side as they’re too narrow for a wheelchair!
I arrive at the polling station which was a school and I was dismayed to learn that there were some steps leading to… wait for this… very steep ramps. My father and a policeman had to carry me to the first steps as if I was some Roman emperor of times past. But I was even less amused when I am faced by an series of steep ramps to the voting room. But, at least, I survived so far.
Then, I came to the voting part. Unfortunately, my vision hasn’t been very stable lately and although I got my magnifying lens, my sight hadn’t yet stabilised. So, I had to ask to declare my choice of candidates to what is known as an electoral commission made up of representatives from every party in Malta. Now, Anyone who has a basic knowledge of the democratic process knows that a vote should be secret. Although the system has been somewhat modified to accommodate a segment of the Maltese population through to the introduction of a tactile ‘template’, people, like me who have a visual impairment or don’t know Braille together with those who, for some reason or another cannot use their hands, and other people with impairments that that are not able to fulfil the requirements of the process as it is, simply cannot vote in secret!!!
As I relax at home in front of the heater, I am a bit frustrated that I have to go through so much hassle to perform my civic duty. When today, thanks to the internet and technology, electronic voting is both a possibility and a reality in certain countries. Yet, it appears that Malta’s turbulent past political history when elections were rigged and votes tampered with still haunts our nation. I’m not saying that the concerns that this might happen again are not justified. Elections, and especially the upcoming general elections, are a serious matter. Yet, I feel that I am being denied my basic right of the free vote. Now, at least three people know how I voted. Is this political equality? I think not.