Definitions

A dictionary that focuses on defining critical terminology related to political processes, elections, disability, assistive devices, and inclusive practices.

Absentee Ballot

Ballot cast by a voter unable to vote in person at his or her polling place on Election Day.

Accessible

A site, facility, work environment, service, or program that is easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in and/or use safely, independently and with dignity by persons with disabilities. For example, a polling station is more accessible if a voter who uses a wheelchair can maneuver unaided.

Accessible formats

Print, audio, or visual information that is accessible to persons with disabilities, e.g. Braille, tactile, large print, sign language, and easy-to-read formats.

Assistive tool

A device that aids completion of a task or other function that might otherwise be difficult or impossible, e.g. a tactile ballot guide or a magnifying glass.

Audio ballot

A ballot in which a set of offices and/or candidates is presented to the voter in spoken form, rather than written form.

Braille

A writing system comprised of raised dots used by persons who are blind or have low vision.

By-election

An election to fill a vacant seat in an elected assembly held at any time other than at a general election.

Challenged Ballot

Ballot provided to individuals who claim they are registered and eligible to vote but whose eligibility or registration status cannot be confirmed when they present themselves to vote. These ballots must be kept separate from other ballots and are not included in the tabulation until the voter’s eligibility is confirmed.

Cross-disability organization

An organization that is comprised of persons with different types of disabilities. For example, Disabled People's International is a network of national disabled persons’ organizations.

Democracy

A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free and fair elections.

 

Disability

The legal definition of disability varies from country to country. In general, disability is any physical, sensory, emotional, intellectual or behavioral trait that can result in a person’s abilities and participation being limited by cultural, environmental and/or biological obstacles. The use of reasonable accommodations, assistive tools and other instruments can mitigate or eliminate limitations so that a person with a disability is able to participate fully and equally in society.

Disabled Persons' Organization (DPO)

A civil society organization that is run by and for persons with disabilities. For example, the Nigerian National Association of the Deaf is comprised of deaf and hard-of-hearing Nigerians that works to promote and protect their rights

Easy-to-read

Text where the content, language, illustrations and graphic layout are simplified for ease of use by persons with intellectual disabilities and/or non-native speakers of a language. To see an example, please visit Inclusion Europe’s "Voting for All" self-advocates page.

Election observation

A process in which accredited observers access an electoral process to assess and report on the compliance of the process with relevant legal instruments and international or regional standards.

Electoral cycle

The full series of steps involved in the preparation, implementation and evaluation of an election. It includes pre-electoral activities such as the review of relevant legal and procedural provisions and electoral registration, as well as post-electoral evaluation and/or audit.

Electoral integrity

Guarding against improper election information modification or destruction, and ensuring the authenticity of the electoral process.

Electoral law

One or more pieces of legislation governing all aspects of the process for electing the political institutions defined in a country’s constitution or institutional framework.

Electoral Management Body (EMB)

A national organization tasked under electoral law with the responsibility for the conduct of elections. The EMB in most countries consists either of an independent commission appointed for the purpose or as a part of a specified government department.

 

Electoral system

A set of rules and procedures in which a population casts votes to determine seats for parties and candidates in the legislature.

Electronic voting

Any method of voting using electronic means, which includes the use of electronic machines, the Internet, telephones, mobile phones, or digital television. Often referred to as “e-voting”.

 

Enfranchise

To endow a person or population with the privileges of citizenship, in particular the right of suffrage.

 

General election

An election at which all those seats in an elected assembly at the national level which are subject to an election are filled simultaneously.

Guardian

An individual or organization named by a legal court to exercise any or all powers and rights over a person and/or the estate of a person. Guardians are held accountable by the court. Sometimes, a person placed under guardianship is not legally allowed to vote.

 

Inclusion

Persons with disabilities are involved in all electoral activities on an equal basis with other citizens, including leadership positions, rather than just having accommodations that might segregate persons with disabilities from other citizens. For example, Rather than only having a mobile ballot box that brings the ballot to a voter’s home, the polling center should also be accessible so the voter can vote in the same location as other citizens, if she or he so desires.

Intellectual disability

Term used when there are limits to a person’s ability to learn at an expected level and function in daily life, e.g. Down syndrome or autism.

Mainstreaming

Process whereby persons with disabilities are integrated as equal participants and leaders in assistance programs and society. For example, a public service announcement for television could include actors with disabilities, as has been done in Guatemala.

Polling center

A venue established for the purpose of polling and managed by polling officials.

 

Postal voting

A mechanism for voting in which a voter completes his or her ballot on paper and returns it by post to an official designated to conduct the election.

Psychosocial disability

Term used for conditions that affect cognition, emotion, and/or behavior, e.g. depression or schizophrenia.

 

 

Quota

May have one of two different meanings: (a) The number of votes which guarantees a part or candidate to win one seat in a particular electoral district; or (b) a number of seats in an elected body or a proportion of candidates nominated by a party or grouping which are required by law to be filled by representations of an underrepresented electoral group, such as persons with disabilities.

Reasonable accommodation

Provision of materials or environment that enables persons with disabilities to participate and contribute on an equal basis with others. For example, a tactile ballot guide is a reasonable accommodation because it gives voters who are blind or who have low vision the same opportunity to vote in secret and without assistance

Referendum

Process whereby a law or constitutional amendment may be referred to the voters before it goes into effect.

Secret ballot

A ballot in which votes are cast in secret.

Suffrage

The right to vote in an election.

Tactile

Raised symbols that can be used where persons may not be fluent in Braille.

 

Tactile ballot guide

Paper or plastic sleeves with Braille or tactile symbols in which ballots are placed. Using the guide, an elector is able to independently mark the ballot, and once the sleeve is removed, the ballot is identical to any other election ballot.

Tactile ballots

Ballots specially made to have Braille or tactile systems printed directly on the ballot. For most elections, only a few of these ballots are printed and used.

Twin-track approach

Includes mainstreaming disability throughout activities and policies, as well as providing activities specifically for persons with disabilities. For example, persons with disabilities could be featured in voter education materials, as well as developing voter education materials targeted solely toward persons with disabilities

Umbrella group

A disabled persons’ organization that is comprised of member organizations that focus on a specific type of disability or group of persons with disabilities. For example, the National Federation of the Disabled Nepal includes members such as the Mental Health Foundation Nepal and the Nepal Disabled Women Association

Universal Design

All buildings, materials and processes are designed to be accessible for both persons with and without disabilities from their inception.

Voter education

A process in which people are made aware of the electoral process and procedures for voter registration, voting, and other elements of the electoral process.

Voter registration

The act of entering the names of eligible electors and other relevant information in a register or list of electors.

Voting booth

An enclosure in a polling station where voters are able to cast their vote in private to protect the secrecy of their ballot.