On Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen's orders, two Office of the Ombudsman officials carried out surprise inspections at seven advance polling stations on Thursday 30 March. The objectives of the inspections were to appraise the realisation of accessibility and the secrecy of the polls at the advance polling stations. One of the inspectors is confined to a wheelchair.
Realisation of the secrecy of the polls
Deficiencies were observed at the advance polling stations in Kirkkonummi, Nummijärvi and Tuusula. There was no separate accessible polling booth for voters confined to a wheelchair. Instead, they were offered a pad to be placed on the lap to help writing. The Ombudsman has stated in a 2015 decision that a separate pad placed on the lap of a voter does not secure the secrecy of the polls adequately.
On the other hand, the deficiencies in the realisation of the secrecy of the polls, that were observed in the 2015 inspection, had been remedied at Espoo's, Vantaa's and Helsinki's advance polling stations. The polling stations had utilised accessible polling booths for voters who use wheelchairs, rollators or other mobility equipment. Kerava's polling station had an accessible voting booth, as well.
Other accessibility-related deficiencies, such as too much gravel in the passage, difficulties caused by the ramp and the shape of the passage, too high doorsteps and too heavy doors were observed in some of the inspected polling stations. Furthermore, some polling stations were small, confined and noisy.
Poor visibility of signs
The Ombudsman decided to launch its own investigation on the deficiencies in the election preparations observed in the municipalities of Kirkkonummi, Nurmijärvi and Tuusula.
In addition, the Ombudsman decided to have all of the central municipal election boards in the cities and municipalities targeted by the inspection to pay attention to the visibility of signs, deficiencies in the accessibility and the confined space of the polling premises.
One of the special tasks of the Ombudsman is to promote, secure and observe the realisation of disabled persons' rights. The task is based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Finland ratified in June 2016. Inspections thus seek to draw attention to accessibility and the possibilities for participation of persons with disabilities.
Further information is available from Principal Legal Advisor Ulla-Maija Lindström, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3355 or from Senior Legal Advisor Juha-Pekka Konttinen, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3338.