Visually impaired people to vote

FOR the first time in history, voters who are blind or have low vision will have the option to attend a polling station where they can be connected to skilled contact centre polling officials to complete their ballot papers.

“While this method of assistive voting is not as independent as we’d like, it certainly affords people who are blind with a higher level of secrecy,” Vision Australia chief executive officer Gerard Menses said.

“Since 1902, Australians who are blind have had to rely on friends, family or even strangers to exercise this basic democratic right.”

At next month’s election, an Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) contact centre will be phoned when a person who is blind or has low vision presents at a designated polling station (AEC divisional offices) to vote.

In order to keep the vote secret, the contact centre will not be told who is calling; this information will be kept at the polling station.

This system was developed by the AEC, in collaboration with Vision Australia, the Human Rights Commission, and Blind Citizens Australia. At future elections, it is planned that an electronic system will be available for total independent use by the visually impaired.

“While we welcome the phone-assisted voting initiative, Vision Australia still believes there is some way to go before Australians who are blind or have low vision can truly vote in a Federal election with independence alongside their sighted peers,” Mr Menses said.

“We see this initiative as an encouraging step forward.”



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