ACT News


Blind voter had preferences read back to him by polling officer during last ACT election

Blind voters say they want the choice to cast their vote via telephone after their right to secrecy was violated at the ballot box last year.

A committee inquiring into the conduct of the last ACT election heard stories of voters who had polling officers read their votes aloud without permission, or who were forced to vote in booths where passersby could look over their shoulders.

Justin Simpson of Blind Citizens Australia told the Legislative Assembly committee the person helping him vote was "overly helpful".

"At the end of each stage she noted everything I said on the screen just to be sure I understood that in front of the 10 or 20 odd people standing around waiting to vote themselves. Good intentions but they're the outcomes we receive," Mr Simpson said.

"The worst report we had from a member was he was pretty much voting in the centre of the room with no barrier protection at all,he was voting with an electronic screen and the way in which he was voting was pretty obvious to everybody standing around him."

The right to a secret vote is one of the core principles of Australian democracy and is clearly laid out in law, their submission to the inquiry said.


The group asked the commission to consider remote voting for the next election, where people could vote via the telephone or internet.

Acting ACT Electoral Commissioner Ro Spence said Elections ACT took great care to ensure, "as far as practical", secrecy was upheld for all voters during the election.

"All ballot boxes are oriented so computer screens are directed to a wall behind the terminal so no other electors would be able to walk behind screen or view from any area," Mr Spence said.

"In terms of whether a polling official read out the voting or not, I'm unable to clarify if that happened but we take great care in training officials to understand importance of secrecy and how to serve electors with a disability.

"As a result of a report such as that one we will further strengthen training to those polling officials to ensure they fully understand the secrecy of blind and vision-impaired voters is paramount."

Blind Citizens Australia also took issue with a leaflet put out by Elections ACT aimed at carers of people with a disability.

The leaflet tells carers how to take the disabled person's name off the electoral roll.

"The language and tone of this leaflet seems to be more concerned with discouraging people with disability from voting than providing information and advice about how to facilitate the voting process," their submission said.

"It is inappropriate to place the onus upon a carer or family member to decide whether or not a person with disability is able to vote. This disempowers the person with disability and leaves this responsibility open to misuse."

How ever Mr Spence said the leaflet was developed in response to concerns raised by their disability advisory council - which includes Blind Citizens Australia - that people who were severely disabled could be fined for not voting.

Voters can be placed on the roll without their knowledge because of automatic enrolment introduced in 2012.

"Automatic enrolment means it is increasingly possible for an elector to be on the electoral roll without completing a form. The leaflet was intended to reduce risk of non-voting notices being sent to those people, which they or their carer may find stressful," Mr Spence said.