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Voting aid introduced to assist persons with disabilities

Good news for those Lowvelders with disabilities or special needs: Casting your vote on May 29 now made easier!

“Every adult citizen has the right to vote in elections for any legislative body established in terms of the Constitution, and to do so in secret,” as per Section 19(3)(a) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.

On May 29, South Africans can exercise their right to have an independent and secret vote during the elections. To assist persons with disabilities and special needs, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), together with the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB), has developed a voting aid, the Universal Ballot Template (UBT). The voting aid can used for special votes, at homes or at voting stations during the election.

What is the UBT?
• A voting aid made of hard, black plastic into which a ballot paper is inserted.
• The right front of the template has a flap which has cut-out windows numbered in Braille and in large, raised white print. When the ballot paper is inserted into the template, each window aligns to a particular candidate or party and the voter is free to make his or her secret and independent mark accurately.

Who can use the UBT?
• Blind and partially-sighted people
• Low-vision users
• People who are dyslexic
• The elderly
• People with low literacy
• People with motor and nervous conditions which do not allow for a steady hand.

Also read: Mpumalanga voters register for 2024 elections

How to cast a vote using the UBT?

1. After receiving the ballot paper at the voting station, the voter should place the ballot paper in the UBT as follows:
• Insert the ballot paper into the template from the open, unridged area at the bottom.
• Ensure that the top edge of the ballot rests against the top edge of the template.
• Check the correct positioning of the ballot by felling the top right corner of the ballot paper through the cut-out triangle at the back of the UBT.
• Ensure that the marking squares on the ballot are aligned with the UBT windows.

2. The voting official will:
• Explain to the voter which ballot is being used in the template.
• Ask the voter if he or she wants to know the order in which the names of the parties or candidates appear on the ballot.
• Read out loudly and accurately the parties or candidates on the ballot.
• Ensure that the numerical sequence in which they appear are clearly understood by the the voter.
• Allow the voter an opportunity to make their mark in private.

3. The voter must then:
• Use the windows on the UBT to identify the number corresponding with the choice of party or candidate.
• Remove the ballot from the UBT and fold it in private.
• Repeat the process in the event of more than one ballot.
• Leave the UBT in the booth to be collected by the voting official.
• Be directed to the ballot box(es) and deposit the folded ballot(s).

A companion can assist a voter with disabilities or special needs to make their marks on the ballot paper(s). A companion must be 18 years or older and not a party agent, candidate or observer. If a voter has no companion, then a voting official or presiding officer may provide such assistance.

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