IEC (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
Voting aids for visually impaired and special needs voters have been designed to accommodate record length ballot papers for the May 8 elections.
In a statement the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) released on Friday, it said traditional cardboard universal ballot templates (UBTs) which visually impaired and special needs voters used, were redesigned to enable easy identification, facilitate selection and minimise the risk of miscast ballots.
The IEC said party identifiers were far more distinct and the sequence of party identifiers on the ballot paper had also been changed.
"After 2011, when a plastic UBT was used, the steady increase in parties and candidates contesting general elections necessitated the development of customised cardboard templates. Each iteration progressively improved usability, resulting in the Electoral Commission winning a United Nations award for the UBT in 2015 in Vienna, Austria – the Innovative Practice for Independent Living for Persons with Disabilities Award.
"The templates have windows numbered in Braille, with numbers in large white font so that people with different tactile, literacy, reading and sight levels can use the same template," the statement read.
READ: If you're blind, dyslexic or have shaky hands the IEC has a voting template just for you
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 will be supplied with two templates - one UBT with 48 windows to accommodate the national ballot, and the other UBT for the respective provincial ballot.
"Electoral officials have been trained to assist visually impaired voters in their use. Instructions to presiding officers also appear on the back of the templates. Visually impaired voters may request the assistance of the presiding officer or a family member or friend to help them cast their ballot for the party of their choice. They may also opt to use the UBT independently.
"For partially sighted and sighted voters, the commission has developed A0 posters showing the national ballot and the provincial ballot. These will be displayed in each voting station to help the voters easily distinguish the different parties on the ballot list," it said.
The commission said it would continue to consult with blind persons organisations and key stakeholders in the best interests of increasing access to the vote and to independent voting for the visually impaired and those with special needs.
There are 48 parties contesting the elections nationally.
For the provincial elections, Gauteng has the most parties contesting at 36, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 31 parties. The Northern Cape has the lowest number of parties at 21.