A New Way to Vote in This Year's Election
Blind Citizens NZ has over several years invested time and energy advocating to Government and the Electoral Commission for blind people to be able to cast a fully accessible, independent and confidential vote in national and local elections. The Electoral Commission recently issued a media release announcing that telephone dictation voting will be available for blind people to use in this year's general election.
The new telephone dictation voting service has been developed with testing and input from the Blind Foundation and Blind Citizens New Zealand. It basically involves a two-step process, using a toll free number. In the first step, you phone in and you give your name and identification information so you can be marked off the electoral roll. You are then given a registration number and an agreed secret question which will be used later to identify you in the next step. In the second step, when you are ready to vote, you phone the same number and you are identified only by your registration number and the answer you give to the secret question. Even though you are identified as eligible to vote, the official at the other end of the phone call has no knowledge of who you really are. You then complete your vote over the phone. Before it is confirmed, the completed ballot paper is passed to yet another official who reads it to you so you can confirm the ballot paper has been completed according to your wishes.
Blind Citizens NZ sees telephone dictation voting as a major step forward, even if technically our vote is still not fully confidential because it is still shared with someone else at the time we vote. We continue to encourage Government to develop systems to make it possible for us to vote with complete anonymity.
The Electoral Commission states that to be eligible to vote using this system, you must be blind, vision impaired, or have a physical disability that prevents you marking your ballot paper without assistance.
Word from people who have tested the system suggests that this could be a popular way for blind and vision impaired people to vote in this year's election. It means if you can use a telephone, you will be able to vote on your own without leaving home, so you won't need the assistance of, for example, a spouse or family member.
I am definitely going to vote this way in the coming election.