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2010 By-elections – Frequently Asked Questions: Assistive Voting Device – Pilot Project

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1. Why is Elections Canada carrying out this pilot project?

As part of its mandate to increase the accessibility of the electoral process, Elections Canada is testing an assistive voting device that allows electors with disabilities, such as visual impairments or limited dexterity, to mark their ballots independently and in secrecy.

The device provides a range of accessibility features that electors can choose from to mark their ballots. It provides an additional method of voting and gives greater independence to an elector who may otherwise need the assistance of another person.

The goals of this pilot project are to determine how well the device meets the needs of electors with disabilities and how well it integrates into the federal electoral process.

Elections Canada will evaluate the results of this pilot project and share them with Parliament.

2. What is an assistive voting device?

An assistive voting device assists electors with disabilities in marking their ballots independently and in secrecy; it does not store information or count votes. Other voting methods are still available the assistive voting device simply provides one more option.

The device provides the following accessibility features, making it especially suitable for electors with visual impairments or limited dexterity:

  • a tactile controller with Braille buttons
  • rocker paddles
  • a sip-and-puff attachment that allows voters to select options using their breath
  • audio with volume and speed control to hear choices through headphones
  • a high-contrast screen with text that can be made bigger

The device has an audio and/or visual review function to confirm the choice of candidate before printing the ballot and is compatible with cochlear implants.

3. How does the assistive voting device work?

To vote using the assistive voting device, an elector first selects the language and accessibility features he or she wants to use. The device will provide visual and/or audio instructions.

When the elector is ready, the device will display and/or speak the candidates' names. The elector will then select the candidate of his or her choice. The device will display and/or speak the name of the elector's chosen candidate, giving the elector an opportunity to confirm that choice.

4. How does using the assistive voting device ensure the secrecy of the vote?

The assistive voting device protects the secrecy of the vote in a number of ways. At polling sites, the device will be positioned so that the monitor faces a wall; thereby ensuring that the elector's choice remains secret. The device also provides a privacy screen, which is attached to the monitor, and headphones. A printer attached to the device will mark a regular ballot using a mark that will be indistinguishable from one marked by hand.

In addition, a secrecy box will be placed over the printer to further ensure the secrecy of the ballot after it is marked. The elector will reach inside the box, retrieve the ballot, re-fold it in the same way as it was previously folded and return it to the deputy returning officer. Or, if the elector requests assistance, an election officer will re-fold the ballot under the privacy box so the elector's marked ballot cannot be seen, then return it to the deputy returning officer who will place it in the appropriate ballot box.

After the polls close, officials will count the ballots according to the usual process.

5. When and where can I vote using an assistive voting device?

We have ensured that all electors who may need this device to vote have access to one during the election period. If you were not able to use the device during the advance voting period, it will be available at seven central polling sites on election day, November 29, 2010.

Note: Your voter information card must show one of the locations below as your designated polling site for you to vote there. If it does not and you would like to use an assistive voting device, you may apply for a transfer certificate in person at your local Elections Canada office (1865 Burrows Avenue, Winnipeg) up to and including election day, November 29. Electors may apply for the certificate themselves, or may ask a friend, spouse, common-law partner or a relative apply on their behalf. Electors must present the certificate when they vote.

Polling Sites Offering an Assistive Voting Device in the Riding of Winnipeg North

  1. James Nisbet Community School
    70 Doubleday Drive

  2. Maples Collegiate
    1330 Jefferson Avenue

  3. Meadows West School
    150 Inkster Garden Drive

  4. Tyndall Park Community School
    2221 King Edward Street

  5. Constable Edward Finney School
    25 Anglia Avenue

  6. Northwood Community Centre
    1415 Burrows Avenue

  7. O.V. Jewitt Elementary School
    66 Neville Street

If you have any questions, please contact your local Elections Canada office (toll-free) at 1 866 294 6772 or TTY 1 800 361 8935.

6. Why are you only piloting this project in Winnipeg North?

Winnipeg North was the first electoral district to become vacant during the period in which we were ready to test this device. And Elections Canada received approval from Parliament to conduct the pilot project in this electoral district. We are working with citizens and organizations in Winnipeg North to raise awareness of the new device and encourage electors with disabilities to use it and share their feedback with us.

7. What other voting options are there for people with disabilities?

Electors with disabilities can:

  • ask a friend, spouse, common-law partner, relative or an election officer to help them mark their ballot
  • vote by special ballot – this allows them to vote by mail, at their local Elections Canada office or at home in the presence of an election officer and witness

8. What other services and tools are available to electors with disabilities?

Elections Canada is committed to making voting accessible to all electors. We offer a number of services to help make voting in person accessible:

  • a Braille voting template for people with visual impairments
  • a large-print list of candidates
  • language or sign language interpreter services (these must be requested ahead of time)
  • help with registration at the advance polls and on election day, upon request
  • on-site assistance and level access to polling sites

Elections Canada also offers these accessible tools:

  • information in Braille on the electoral process
  • sign language videos about elections and voting, with open- and closed-captioning for people who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • a toll-free information line for people who are deaf or hard of hearing: TTY 1‑800‑361‑8935 (toll-free in Canada and the United States)