Dear Guide Dog Owner
New Bigger Universal Ballot Template Developed for 2016 Municipal Elections
The record number of political parties and candidates contesting the 2016 Municipal Elections on 3 August has required the development of new voting aids for the visually impaired to cater for the larger ballot papers.
The Electoral Commission, Blind SA and the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB) have developed a special new 32-window cardboard ballot template to allow visually impaired voters to vote unaided in the elections.
An even bigger double-column 40-window cardboard UBT will be used in the City of Cape Town metropolitan (metro) municipal council elections, where 36 parties are contesting the elections.
The Cape Town ballot paper will be the largest yet seen in a South African election and about A3 in size (420mm X 384mm) – approximately twice the size of a traditional ballot paper
The Electoral Commission first developed a universal ballot template (UBT), together with SANCB, for use in the 2011 Municipal Elections. The original plastic UBT accommodates ballots with up to 18 parties or candidates and has been in use in elections ever since.
The new templates work in exactly the same way as the plastic UBT. They have windows numbered in Braille and with numbers in large white font so that people with different tactile, literacy and sight levels can use the same template.
Both the ballot papers and the templates have a tactile recognition feature to assist visually impaired voters with the correct alignment of the ballot paper in the template.
Ballot papers have a circular hole punched in the bottom left corner. All the templates have a built-in tactile feature on the top right-hand corner.
All voting stations in the 2016 Municipal Elections will be supplied with a UBT and election officials have been trained to assist visually impaired voters to mark their ballots unaided with the use of a UBT and to cast their vote.
Voter education on using the UBT has also begun nationwide with the assistance of organisations representing visually impaired persons, including Blind SA and SANCB.
“The Electoral Commission has always been sensitive to the needs of voters who are visually impaired. The fact that we need to constantly expand the size of the template to accommodate larger ballot papers is an indication of the strong growth of multi-party democracy in our country,” says Dr Nomsa Masuku, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer for Outreach at the Electoral Commission.
Dr Masuku thanked the South African Council for the Blind and Blind SA for their partnership in this initiative. “Developing a new ballot template in such a short space of time would not have been possible without their expert assistance,” adds Dr Masuku.
In turn, SANCB and Blind SA have expressed their gratitude to the Electoral Commission for its efforts.
“This new cardboard ballot template continues to make the voting experience accessible and secret for blind and partially sighted people,” says Antonius Spek, National Executive Director of SANCB.
“The use of assistive devices and new technologies play an important role in building a more inclusive democracy. We look forward to this inclusivity being progressively improved with each of South Africa’s ensuing elections,” says Jace Nair, Chief Executive Officer of Blind SA.
The final number of parties and candidates contesting the 3 August elections was only concluded at the beginning of July which meant the new ballot paper designs and templates were only finalised very recently.
There are a total of 4 649 unique ballot papers for the 2016 Municipal Elections taking place on 3 August:
- 4 392 ward ballot papers
- 205 local council Proportional Representation (PR) ballot papers
- 8 metro council PR ballot papers
- 44 district council ballot papers.
Voters in metros will complete two ballot papers and voters in all other municipalities will complete three ballot papers. The Electoral Commission is currently printing approximately 73,9 million copies of ballot papers to ensure sufficient ballots for all voters.