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E-voting to be rolled out for election

By Jennifer Macey

Posted August 15, 2007 15:28:00
Updated August 15, 2007 15:53:00

For the blind or visually impaired citizens voting means relying on a helper and losing the right to a secret ballot. (File photo)

For the blind or visually impaired citizens voting means relying on a helper and losing the right to a secret ballot. (File photo) (AAP Image: Dean Lewins)

The right to privacy as we cast our federal or state vote is something most Australians take for granted.

For around 300,000 blind or vison-impaired citizens, voting means relying on a helper and losing the right to a secret ballot.

Now the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is setting up 29 electronic voting booths around the country for the upcoming federal election.

This will allow vision-impaired people to vote independently for the first time.

The AEC's Judy Birkenhead says the machines are computers with special voice-prompted software and a telephone key-pad with instructions heard through headphones.

The vote is registered and printed as a bar code and is then put into an envelope by an electoral officer.

Ms Birkenhead says the process ensures the identity of the voter is protected.

The AEC is trialing e-voting machines in more than 20 pre-polling locations around Australia and recently held a demonstration in Sydney.

Vision-impaired people can vote at one of these sites on polling day and two weeks before hand.

Sarah Hirst is voting for the first time in a federal election and had her parents help in this year's New South Wales state election.

She says this time she will feel less easily swayed by her family's voting preferences.

ACT ahead

Electronic voting has been available in the ACT since 2001.

Last year Victoria became the first state to introduce e-voting for the blind, but the ballot is registered on the computer hardware and is not printed.

Michael Simpson is the director of advocay and policy at Vision Australia.

He says organisations for the blind have been lobbying hard for this type of electronic voting.

"There are almost 300 000 people with poor or no sight living in Australia but this number is expected to double by 2020," he said.

"There are also remote and regional areas in the Northern Territory where glaucoma and poor vision is a growing problem."

Vision Australia's Michael Simpson says if the trial is successful e-voting should be rolled out in all electorates.

Tags: government-and-politics, electoral-system, health, disabilities, australia, act

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