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Making Democracy Accessible

AEC staff counting votes at the 2016 federal electionPDCN, along with various other disability advocacy services, recently met with representatives of the Australian and NSW Electoral Commissions to discuss the accessibility of the electoral system for people with disability. This meeting looks like it will become part of an ongoing dialogue with both Commissions.

Access to the democratic process is a fundamental right, and both the State and Federal Commissions have acknowledged this through the development of Disability Inclusion Action Plans (DIAPs). One of the key functions of DIAPs is to develop practical strategies to remove barriers to accessing government services and employment, and to generally promote the rights of people with disability.

We reflected on State and Federal strategies around various accessibility issues, including physical access to polling centres and the process of lodging ballot papers. Technologies discussed included iVote, the use of Auslan interpreters at polling booths and via Facebook Live, the recent upgrades to the NSW Electoral Commission website and the use of braille ballot papers.

An issue that remains problematic is any requirement for candidates to provide voting information in accessible formats. There are currently no statutory requirements for candidates to provide these resources in multiple formats.

The next upcoming election is the NSW Local Government election scheduled for 12 September 2020. Important information about this election includes the following:

  • iVote will not be available for the 12 September election;
  • Telephone assisted voting will not be available;
  • Two Local Government Areas (Penrith and Fairfield) have opted to use private contractors to run their polling. This may mean that the accessibility standards of these LGAs may differ to other LGAs, although it is expected that they comply with the legislation which specifies that accessibility must be considered;
  • If you require a braille ballot paper, these must be ordered in advance by no later than 3 August 2020 by calling 1300 135 736. These can be posted to your home or can be provided to you on election day at a specified polling booth;
  • Auslan interpreters will be available at all polling venues;
  • Interpreters will be available at all polling venues via TIS. You can find more information on elections in languages other than English on the NSW Electoral Commission website;
  • Details of accessible polling venues will be available on the NSW Electoral Commission website.

We are interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences regarding access and technologies like iVote at previous elections. Please email us at admin@pdcnsw.org.au or call on 1800 688 831 and ask to speak with Hayley Stone.

Image: Santwyne.
Australian Electoral Commission / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

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