Ballot Paper Template for Voters who are blind or vision impaired
European Parliament and Local Elections 2019
For the first time, voters who are blind and vision impaired will have the option at the forthcoming European Parliament and Local Elections of voting independently by using a Ballot Paper Template (BPT), which will enable them to mark their ballot papers without assistance if they wish to do so. The BPT that has been in use at referendums since last year will also be available for use by voters who are blind and vision impaired at the forthcoming referendum and the plebiscites taking place in Cork City, Limerick City and County, and Waterford City and County on the same day.
Ballot Paper Template (BPT)
A BPT is a transparent plastic device that is placed on top of a ballot paper and which has a number of tactile features to facilitate the independent marking of a ballot paper by a voter who is blind or vision impaired. In the case of the referendum BPT, the template has tactile features that enables the voter who is blind or vision impaired to mark either the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ box on the ballot paper to reflect their view on the referendum proposal or the proposal contained in the plebiscite taking place in Cork City, Limerick City and County and Waterford City and County. For the European Parliament and Local Elections, the template consists of raised numbering and corresponding braille to assist the voter in identifying the openings on the template that correspond to the voter preference boxes for the candidates on the ballot paper which lies beneath.
Freephone - 1800 number
The BPT works in conjunction with a ‘Freephone – 1800’ number that informs the listener of the candidates corresponding to the numbers on the BPT. Based on this interaction between the tactile features of the BPT and the information provided on the Freephone number, the voter can then mark the ballot paper with their voting preferences (1,2,3 etc.). The BPT also has a flap corresponding to each voting choice that can be securely closed once a voting preference has been completed. This will be helpful given the large number of candidates standing for election in the constituencies and local electoral areas. Once the voter has completed the process, the ballot paper is detached from the template and placed in the ballot box in the usual way.
The Freephone number will be available for voters intending to use the template as soon as possible following the period for the receipt of nominations to stand for elections up to an including polling day. Therefore, they can listen to the candidate line-up from the comfort of their homes as often as they wish in advance of polling day and, if they wish, can again listen to it on their mobile phones at the polling station if they wish to do so. Voters should refer to the relevant website of their local authority or returning officer or make direct contact to ascertain the ‘freephone’ numbers that apply in their areas.
European Constituencies Freephone 1800 number:
- Dublin Constituency – 1800 200 246
- South Constituency – 1800 300 103
- Midlands-North-West Constituency – 1800 805 821
Notice of Poll or Candidate Details
Another option open to voters with the relevant screen reading technology (eg on their phones, tablets or laptops) is to familiarise themselves with the candidates standing in their European Parliament constituency or local electoral area by accessing the relevant ‘Notice of Poll’ or ‘candidate details’ section on the relevant website. A Notice of Poll is a statutory notice published by a returning officer which sets out details of the poll, including a listing of the candidates in the order in which they will appear on the ballot paper. The relevant websites in the case of the three European Parliament Constituencies are provided below – the Notice of Poll in each case can be noted there. In the case of the local elections, local authority returning officers have been asked to provide candidate details on their local authority’s website.
BPTs will be available at each polling station on polling day. If a voter who is blind or vision impaired indicates to the Presiding Officer that they wish to avail of the BPT option, they will be handed their ballot papers with the appropriate BPT attached. However, the option of voting with the aid of a companion or the Presiding Officer at a polling station will continue to be available for those voters who are blind and vision impaired that would prefer to continue voting in this way.
Voters intending to use the template may also wish to refer to the website of the National Council for the Blind of Ireland where further details can be obtained about the use of the templates.