New Zealand: Inclusive Voter Education, Disability Strategy and Initiatives for PwD’s
All the New Zealand citizens have right to have their voice heard and as such, equal access to enrollment and voting at elections. In this context, the Electoral Commission of New Zealand provides efficient and effective electoral assistance in terms of enrollment and voting to persons with disabilities, aboriginals, other categories requiring voter assistance besides women. The initiatives of EC NZ are supported by the provisions of the Elections Act 1993 and the rules made under this Act.
Access 2020 Disability Strategy
EC NZ has developed Access 2020 strategy taking into account the improvements made during last three elections and integrating them into a long time framework. Through this process, the Commission aims to identify and remove the barriers that the PwD’s face at the time of enrollment and exercising their right to vote. The focus of the disability strategy of EC NZ is to support persons with disabilities and their families ‘whanau and caregivers’ for participation in electoral process.
Initiatives of EC NZ
EC NZ continued all of its initiatives from the 2011 general election through 2014. Main initiatives include the following:
- information in accessible formats including Braille, large-print, audio format and screen reader files
- information and consultation opportunities in New Zealand Sign Language
- DVD resource kits and facilitation guides for voters with an intellectual disability
Plain English resources including posters, booklets and DVDs
Special Voters Defined under the Law
As provided under the electoral legislation of New Zealand, a person who is otherwise qualified to vote may vote as a special voter under inter alia the following conditions:
- A person intends to be absent or is actually absent from the district on the day of polling;
- a person who intends to be outside or is actually outside New Zealand on the polling day;
- a person is unable to attend to vote at any polling place in the district by reason of illness, infirmity, pregnancy, or recent childbirth;
- a person is unable to vote on the polling day by reason of a religious objection;
a person satisfies the Returning Officer or the issuing officer that on any other ground it will not be practicable for him to vote at a polling place in the district without incurring hardship or serious inconvenience.
Special vote can be cast only as per prescribed procedure under the law.
Blind, Disabled or Illiterate Voters
An elector who is wholly or partially blind or whether because of physical handicap or otherwise, unable to write or has severe difficulty in reading or writing, or is not sufficiently familiar with the English language to vote without assistance, can vote as per prescribed procedure under the Election laws of New Zealand. The law elaborates the procedure as well as the nature of assistance that may be provided to such voters.
Provision of Telephone Dictation to Blind Voters
EC NZ delivered telephone dictation voting to voters who are blind or visually impaired or have another disability with the result that they are unable to vote independently and in secret at the 2014 General Election.
Enrolling and Voting in Sign Language
The election resources of EC NZ provide information and guidance for enrolling and voting in New Zealand sign language for voters who require this assistance.
The electoral regulations define ‘Hospital Votes’ and provide for electoral assistance to a person who is a patient in any hospital, maternity home etc. Such persons have to apply for a special vote and the assistance is provided as per prescribed procedure to such applicants.
Details of the Access 2020 disability strategy and other disability resources of the Electoral Commission, New Zealand can be accessed at its website for voter information, awareness and educative purposes
Edited by ECI