[Nfbc-info] Visually impaired voters in BC given option to phone it in

nancy Lynn seabreeze.stl at gmail.com
Sun May 14 20:21:27 UTC 2017

I got this from a friend and thought you'd find it interesting.
Visually impaired voters in B.C. given option to phone it in
VANCOUVER - Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, May 08, 2017.

For Reed Poynter, not being able to see has made voting difficult.

Plastic templates that help visually impaired  voters cast their ballots can
slip, meaning the
only way he could ensure he checked off the right  candidate is to ask for
help - and give up his privacy.

In the last federal election, staff at his  polling station told him they
didn't have any
braille ballots; he was later told some officials  just didn't know where
they were.

In contrast, Mr. Poynter, who has been blind  since he was a child, was able
to vote in advance
of Tuesday's B.C. election simply by picking up  the phone as part of an
Elections BC
pilot  program that allows people with disabilities to vote from home.

"I thought that the experience was quite good.
Their staff was polite, professional, very well  done," said Mr. Poynter, a
67-year-old who lives
in Langley, B.C., southeast of Vancouver.

"It beats the hell out of going to the polling  station. Over the phone is
more secure."

The 2017 election is the first in the province to  allow telephone voting.
The service launched in
mid-April and, in the first 11 days, 555 voters  used it, said Andrew Watson
of Elections BC.

When someone calls in, operators verify their  voter registration and ask if
they have a
disability as defined under the  BC  Elections Act. The type of disability
doesn't need to be disclosed.

Voters are then assigned a number for privacy and  then transferred to two
voting operators - one
administers the vote and the second acts as scrutineer.

Elections BC says it doesn't know if the program  will be used in future
elections, but so far the
agency has only received positive responses.

Before phone voting, partially sighted or blind  voters could use
large-sized poster ballots,
braille ballots, plastic guides with braille and  tactile markers down the
sides, or bring someone along to assist.

While all advance polling stations are guaranteed  to be physically
accessible, some general
election voting locations are not; for those,  voters with disabilities can
cast their ballots at the curb or parking lot.

Rob Sleath from  Access  for Sight-Impaired Consumers said there are
several issues with these options. He says they
might allow voters to mark independently and  privately, but there was no
way to verify it was
marked correctly. After every election, he gets  multiple phone calls about
physical accessibility.

"That is one of the current downfalls in the  current system," Mr. Sleath
said. "People want to
vote the same as you or anybody else, they don't  want to be treated in a
special way."

Greg Koyl, a 66-year-old retiree in Victoria,  lost his sight in the past
three years because of
glaucoma. This is his first provincial election  to vote while legally
blind. In the federal
election, he waited in line for more than 45  minutes and had to bring
someone along to help
him vote, while phone voting took only five minutes.

"I was quite pleased with how it unfolded," Mr.  Koyl says. "People were
very helpful and the
service quality was in spades. It was a nice
relief to think I could do it that way rather  than have someone come along
. to help me get my ballot."


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