Thanks to changes to the Electoral Legislation Act passed in the Victorian Parliament yesterday, voters who are blind or have low vision will now have greater electronic voting choices and certainty.
The changes to the Act allow for the possibility of electronic voting options such as telephone or computer-voting to be offered at all Victorian elections, including in the upcoming state election on November 24.
Vision Australia Manager Government Relations Chris Edwards said the changes to the Act were a result of the organisation lobbying crossbenchers, including Fiona Patten MLC and mobilising Victorians who are blind or have low vision to share their voice.
“We’ve waited 16 years for this opportunity. Therefore this was an extremely rare window of opportunity to influence change, and we took action,” Chris said.
“We urged all Victorian upper house MPs to consider the need for electronic voting and in that process Ms Patten was really engaged in this issue. She understood how important it was for amendments to be made to the legislation to allow for the possibility of electronic voting.”
Secret, independent and verifiable voting is not available to people who are blind or have low vision in Victoria, with many Vision Australia clients saying they ask friends or family to vote for them. In some instances clients reported they relied on electoral staff at polling booths.
In NSW and WA, a remote electronic voting system called iVote was available for the last state elections, allowing people who are blind or have low vision to cast a secret, independent and verifiable vote.
“As an organisation, we’re lobbying for all states and the federal government to implement iVote, but they can’t without legislation to allow it.
“While voters who are blind or have low vision are still unable to truly exercise their right to a secret and independent vote, this is amendment is positive step.
“It’s every citizen’s right to be able to cast their vote secretly and independently, and until this is recognised for all voters who are blind or have low vision, we won’t stop advocating for change across Australia,” Chris said.
Following the passing of the Bill today, Vision Australia will start discussions with the Victorian Electoral Commission to understand more about how the electronic voting will be rolled out for the upcoming state election in November 2018.