In SCI BC News

automarkAnd we’re off! With advanced voting now open in municipalities across the province, and the November 15 general voting day fast approaching, it’s time for British Columbians to have their say. Fortunately, this year, casting your local election ballot is more accessible than ever before. Here’s a quick guide to the accessible voting options available to BC residents with disabilities.

Can’t decide whether to fill out a ballot? Check out our blog post about why you really should vote.

Eligibility

To vote in a municipal election, you must be:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • A Canadian citizen
  • A resident of BC for at least 6 months
  • A resident of your voting jurisdiction for at least 30 days
  • Not be disqualified from voting by law

If you’re not pre-registered, arriving at your local voting station with the appropriate identification is enough to get you that ballot.

Accessible Voting Terminals

This November, new voting machines in Vancouver, Kelowna and Prince George will assist people with disabilities to cast their municipal election ballots. The rented “AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminals” aim to make voting more inclusive for people with a range of disabilities, while keeping the voting process accurate and private.

voterassistThe AutoMARK machines come with on-site support and a variety of accessible voting options:

  • An access port for Sip-N-Puff technology
  • Yes and No paddles for those with limited dexterity
  • A touch screen with a zoom and contrast feature
  • Voting translation in multiple languages

Other features include an intuitive access pad, a Braille keypad and voice narration. Elections BC encourages people who need assistance or extra time to use advanced voting days, which are usually less busy than election day. The Kelowna city website has more information on the voting process and machine, as well as a handy video tutorial.

The downside? In Prince George, the machine will only be available during advanced polling. (The city couldn’t figure out which polling station to place it at for the regular voting day.) And unfortunately, though many expected to see them in some of BC’s larger communities, these machines are not everywhere—yet.

So, what’s the best way to ensure other municipalities offer the AutoMARK next elections? We encourage all peers in areas where the machines are available to come out and use them—an increase in traffic to the accessible voting terminals may well lead to more machines, province-wide, in future elections.

Accessibilty Aids

This year, several cities are offering accessibility aids and assistance to enable people with disabilities to vote. All advanced voting stations, and many general stations, are wheelchair accessible. Your local voting station may also include one or more of the following:

  • Sip and puff voting devices
  • Curbside voting for persons unable to leave their vehicle to vote
  • Audio systems with headphones to read the ballot
  • Magnification devices to enlarge the ballot
  • Assistance from election staff
  • On-site language assistance and a direct phone line to translation services for over 180 languages.

Other options, such as voting by mail and special voting for those unable to attend a regular voting place, may also be available. This voting area map shows you where you can vote. To find out what your municipality offers in terms of advanced voting and accessibility features head to Google and search “Advanced + Voting + [Municipality Name]”.

Tools

This year, many local websites feature tools to help you learn more about candidates and plan your vote. You can learn about candidates, choose a voting location convenient for you, and pick a date that works with your schedule. Click on your municipality to get started:

Now: ready, set, vote! And let us know: What tools does your municipality provide to make voting more accessible? Did you fill in your ballot? And, if not, what keeps you from voting?

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