Blind Man Wants Better Voting Tools

Thursday, May 13, 2010
CBC news

A Saskatoon man is calling for a better system to allow people with a visual
impairment to vote with certainty and secrecy, conditions he says are
currently lacking at provincial election time.

Robin East, who is legally blind, says he has only two options to mark a
ballot: have someone help him, or insert his ballot into a sleeve that has
braille on it, and hope his mark is correctly aligned.

“There’s holes where the circles of the ballot would have where you mark,”
East said about the sleeve system. “You … have to feel those holes and try to figure out which one you’re at.”

East says the system is open to mistakes.

“You hope that the ballot doesn’t slip and so on and so forth,” he said. “So
there’s all kinds of problems with that.”

East says there are other systems that could be used in a provincial election.

He notes that the city of Saskatoon used a terminal called Automark in the 2009 civic vote.

“A machine takes the ballot … I put on a pair of headphones, it reads out the information for me,” East explained. “I know exactly which candidate I want to vote for [and] it marks the ballot for me.”

The device also confirms the voter’s selection.

“It prints it on the ballot, it spits it back out and then I can put it in the ballot box,” East added. “So the technology is here. There’s no reason to not allow this to occur.”

Saskatchewan’s Justice Minister, Don Morgan, said he wants to know more about options for blind voters, and what different systems cost.

The next provincial election, the first on a pre-set date, will be Nov. 7, 2011.

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