Specialized equipment makes voting more accessible in Woolwich

Voters heading to the polls for municipal elections this month in Woolwich Township will have a new way to vote.

Responding to accessibility amendments to the municipal elections act, Woolwich leased two AutoMARK voting machines, which allow for a variety of voting methods.

“It has the ability to allow electors to use four different ways to mark the ballot,” said Amanda Fusco, executive assistant to the chief administrative officer and clerk. “The first one is using the touch screen, so any electors with visual difficulties can magnify the ballot using the zoom in and zoom out function. It also allows electors to listen to the ballot using the headphones provided. So it will actually read the ballot, including all of the candidate’s names and the elector could use the buttons on the machine to vote for the candidates. It also comes with a foot pedal and a hand pedal similar to the headphones, the elector uses the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ buttons to scroll through the ballot and select their vote. And the final way, is that it does come with a sip and puff model which allows electors that are in a wheelchair, if they are quadriplegic or paraplegic, they can actually use this device to mark the ballot as well. So they would sit and inhale and exhale to move across the ballot.”

She continued, “The township leased these machines to ensure that those who are unable to mark the ballot manually are able to vote.”

In past elections, electors who were incapable of using a pen to mark their ballot would have someone do it for them.

“In terms of integrity and ensuring that (every elector) has the ability to vote, this machine will facilitate that.”

The township leased two machines at a cost of $290 each, plus $120 each for tables. They will be available at each advanced polling location, and on election day, October 27, one will be located at the township office voting station and another at the Breslau Community Centre.

Advanced polling begins October 7 at the Woolwich Memorial Centre, where the AutoMARK will be in use from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. It continues October 9 at the Breslau Community Centre, with the machine in use from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. And advanced polling concludes October 18 at the Township administrative office, with AutoMARK use from 1:30 p.m. through 4:30 p.m.

In 2010, nearly 10 per cent of Woolwich voters cast their ballots during advanced polling.

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