A guide to accessible voting4 min read
Wondering about New Zealand’s accessible voting options, but not sure where to start? CCS Disability Action Policy National Policy Analyst Phoebe Grace Eden-Mann has done all the hard work, so you don’t have to.
This article has been updated due to the delay in the election. The dates in the article have been updated and as of the 20th of August 2020, are correct. Should the election be delayed or changed again, this article will be updated to reflect that.
It’s 2020, which all chaos aside means it’s election year. On the 17th October we will head to the polls and vote for whichever candidate and party we choose. We will also be voting on the End of Life Choice, and Cannabis referendums. If you’re a resident or citizen and over the age of 18 then you are eligible to vote.
Exercising your democratic right to vote is essential and part of ensuring that your voice is heard. The people we elect in September will be in charge of any new laws or policies for the next three years, and their decisions effect each and every one of our lives.
So we know that voting is important, but what about accessible voting? How do we ensure that there aren’t barriers in place when it comes to enrolling and voting? So I looked into it. It was a quite confusing journey to find out this information, and I would argue that NZ Electoral Commissions website isn’t brilliantly user friendly. A lot of disability specific information was hard to find and it took awhile to uncover the information I was after. But a few phone calls and many open tabs later, I’m pleased to say that yes we do have accessible voting options, and here’s the rundown on them.
You can vote from the 30th of September if you are overseas, and from the 3rd of October if you are in New Zealand. You have until the 17th of October to vote, where polls close at 7pm. The full guide to the general election is available online in a variety of formats. You can choose from multiple languages including NZ Sign Language, as well as large print, audio, and image free versions for screen readers. There is also the option of Blind Low Vision NZ’s telephone information service to find out more information about the upcoming general election and the referendums.
Some of us need help to vote, and there are also options available for this. You can have a support person who can tick your choice of candidate or read out the information for you. Your support person cannot tell you who to vote for or how you vote in the referendums. Those choices are yours and yours alone. You can also vote via a telephone dictation service, but you must register for this service, even if you’ve used it before. You can register from the 14th of September to the 15th of October at 7pm. If you haven’t registered after that, then you’ll have to vote in person, but you can still have a support person to assist you.
Of course some of us physically can’t access voting booths. It could be because you are in hospital, a rest home, or you have limited mobility and transportation. Don’t worry, there’s also ways to vote in these instances too. The Electoral Commission work with hospital and rest home managers to find the best way to help you vote. This could include requesting a postal vote or asking a family member or friend to pick up and deliver voting papers on your behalf. Postal voting registration closes on the 2nd of October, and can be ordered by calling 0800 36 76 56. Often in hospitals there is a voting booth, and mobile voting stations also travel to places like rest homes.
So, there you have it. We do have accessible voting in NZ. But before you can vote, you must be enrolled. You’ll probably see people with orange vests and clipboards hanging about for the next few weeks. They are there to help you enrol or to update your enrolment details. You can also enrol online.
I can’t emphasise enough how important voting is, so please, make sure you’re enrolled to vote and come election day, I really hope that you make sure your voice is heard.
Here are some helpful links