Vision-impaired able to vote in secrecy
A milestone will be marked on October 1 when voters with sight problems get their first chance to cast their ballots on their own in a General Election, a charity said yesterday.
Vision Bermuda, formerly the Bermuda Society for the Blind, announced the arrival of new voting technology — tactile audio devices — after years of work.
The charity said: “This is a milestone for Bermuda.
“Bermuda can take the lead with the use of the TAD during an election as there are no other similar devices in the United States or the United Kingdom, other than a polling machine that allows persons to vote independently and in private.”
Pauleter Stevens, a board member, said the campaign for better voting systems started after a representative from the Human Rights Commission joined one of the charity’s regular discussion groups.
Ms Stevens added: “It’s about empowerment and independence. We were missing that right to cast a vote in secret.
“People were upset because they could not cast a vote by themselves. They had to trust someone else, and reveal their selection. You were allowed to take in a friend or family member to vote, or you could take in an officer, who would then have to take in representatives from each party.”
She added: “It just happened in July — now we finally have what we wanted.”
Vision Bermuda said the 2010 Census identified 2,371 people as vision-impaired — defined as having difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses.
Ms Stevens said that she had earlier voted with the use of a magnifying glass, but the rules had changed to prevent taking any type of device into the voting booth.
She said a “forgotten population” of potential voters had been excluded from the right to cast a ballot in secrecy.
Vision Bermuda has worked with the Parliamentary Registrar’s Office for three years to bring in the tactile audio device as an option.
The TAD allows voters who are blind or partially-sighted to use hearing and touch to pick a candidate.
The machine reads out the name of the candidate the voter wants to select.
It will be available at all polling stations as a result of an amendment to the Parliamentary Election Act 1978 passed in July.
Vision Bermuda will offer training sessions in the run-up to the General Election, and Returning Officers will be present on October 1 to help if needed.
The charity said: “Vision Bermuda would like to encourage all those who feel they would benefit from using the TAD to ensure that they are registered to vote.”
Registration can be done at the Parliamentary Registrar’s Office in the Craig Appin Building on Wesley Street, Hamilton.
Registration can also be completed online at elections.gov.bm, by 5pm on Saturday.
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