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Assisted voting empowers people with a disability to have their say

Plan to lift voter turnout

Published: 28 September 2016

Using technology and in-house visits, Auckland Council and the Blind Foundation have teamed up to assist blind and low vision voters access information about candidates standing in the local elections and cast their postal ballot.

“Assisted voting is all part of our effort to increase voter participation and ensure everybody can exercise their electoral right,” says Marguerite Delbet, council’s General Manager Democracy Services.
Postal voting can cause a significant barrier for people with a disability, says Neil Jarvis, Executive Director at the Blind Foundation.

“In the past I had to ask a family member to mark my voting paper which would lead to a discussion on my choices,” says Mary Schnackenberg, Secretary of the Auckland Branch of Blind Citizens New Zealand.

“It is much more private to have a trusted stranger mark my voting paper in the way I want, without any debate or disagreement.”

Access to information can also be a barrier to participating in the vote, especially for those who cannot read printed material.

For the first time Auckland Council has provided information on the local elections via the Blind Foundation’s Telephone Information Service and audio discs with 12 hours of candidate and voting information were distributed to 1600 users of the Foundation’s library. In addition, New Zealand Sign Language videos and an Easy Read leaflet for those with learning difficulties and low English language literacy levels have also been produced.

Auckland Council volunteers have been trained to be electoral officials and will be available to visit people’s homes and will also be offering assisted voting at disability community meetings, partnering with Be Accessible, Te Roopu Waiora and Blind Citizens New Zealand.

For more information on local elections:
• Call the Electoral Office on 0800 922 822 to register for assisted voting. Please note this service is only available for those who cannot complete a postal vote independently due to a disability, such as blindness
• Check out where you can search by your address to find out more about the candidates you can vote for and compare what they say on key issues.
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