Device Helps Blind Voters Cast Ballots

By: Bruce Owen
Winnipeg Free Press – PRINT EDITION
Posted: 19/10/2010 1:00 AM |

THE upcoming federal byelection in Winnipeg North will be the nation’s testing ground for an automated-talking voting device that helps the blind and disabled vote without a pencil and paper ballot.

A Parliamentary committee approved the device Monday, with approval from the Senate expected shortly.

The use of the technology will be a first for any Canadian federal election, although some cities already use it in municipal elections.

The electronic assistive voting device is aimed at getting more to vote in federal elections, Elections Canada spokeswoman Maureen Keenan said.

“We are always looking for ways to increase the accessibility of the vote,” she said. The push for the device comes after disappointing voter turnout in
provincial and federal elections. Only 58.8 per cent of registered electors voted in the last federal election. It’s designed to help people with a visual
impairment or who are illiterate mark their ballot by following step-by-step voice instructions delivered via headphones.

CNIB president and CEO John Rafferty said the organization looks forward to the roll-out of the technology nationwide. “The ability to cast a ballot independently and confidentially is a cornerstone of modern democracy,” Rafferty said. “Proven technologies that make the voting process accessible must be introduced now to empower Canadians who are blind, partially sighted or otherwise print-disabled to exercise their democratic rights on election day.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has until Oct. 27 to call a byelection in Winnipeg North. It was held by NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who is now running for
mayor in Winnipeg’s civic election.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 19, 2010

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