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by Emily Acraman, Parent to Parent Researcher

Voting in the general election is an important way to have your say about the issues that are important to you. Your vote is your opportunity to be part of the decision-making that directly affects important things in your life such as education, health, and infrastructure. 

This year the 2020 general elections will be held on Saturday 17 October along with the End of Life Choice and the cannabis referendums.

Anyone over the age of 18 who is a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident is eligible to vote in the upcoming elections. This includes all people who have a disability. No person is excluded from having a vote because of a disability. In fact, our democracy is better with participation and representation from the disability community.  

Having a disability should also not be a barrier to participating in the election, and there are a number of ways disabled people can be supported to make sure they are able to have their say in the 2020 general election.

Enrolling to vote

The first step is to make sure you are enrolled to vote. It’s not too late to enrol, in fact you can even enrol on election day itself. However, if you need special considerations to vote (voting over the phone, having a support person, voting on behalf of someone else etc), it is important to enrol early to make the voting process as easy as possible. 

To check if you are enrolled, or to update your enrolment details click here

You can also enrol on behalf of someone else. As long as you are enrolled to vote, you can act as a representative for someone with a physical or mental impairment. 

To represent a person with a physical disability:

  • You must be enrolled;
  • and on the disabled persons enrolment form write: ‘Elector with physical impairment – signed by their direction’ next to your signature.

To represent someone with a learning disability or mental impairment:

  • You must be enrolled;
  • or you are the persons welfare guardian or power of attorney;
  • and you need to fill out an extra form which you can request from the electoral commission by phoning 0800 36 76 56

Accessibility options for voting

If you are enrolled by Sunday 13 September, you will get a voting pack in the mail which tells you how to vote, who you can vote for and when you can vote. You will also get an EasyVote card which makes voting on the day quicker. 

If you are living in New Zealand, you don’t have to wait till election day to vote. Voting begins from Saturday 3 October up until 7pm on election day, 17 October. Early voting is a good option to avoid crowding at the polling booths. To find out where you can go to vote click here.

If you are sight impaired or have a physical disability which makes it hard for you to mark your voting paper, you can register to vote via telephone dictation voting. You need to register to vote via telephone, even if you have voted this way before. Registration for this service opens 14 September. To register for telephone dictation voting call 0800 028 028. You must have registered and voted before 7pm Thursday 15 October. 

If you need a support person to assist you with voting in the polling both that’s okay too. This can be a friend, family member, support person, or someone working at the voting place. Talk to the people supervising the polling station when you arrive, to let them know. Your support person can’t tell you who to vote for, but they can help you by accompanying you in the booth, reading out the words and information on the voting paper, and marking the voting papers for you if you ask them to.

Voting stations around the country will be following strict level 2 guidelines due to COVID-19, so there will be extra measures in place to keep people safe. You can help with this by using the hand sanitiser available when you go into the voting place and again when you leave. It is also a good idea to bring your own pen.   

If you can’t leave your house to get to a polling station, don’t worry there are still ways for you to vote. You can arrange to have somebody pick up and deliver your voting papers, or you can arrange to vote by post. Both these options need to be pre-arranged, and you can do this by calling 0800 36 76 56

If you have any questions about how you can be supported to vote, or how you can support another person to vote, contact the electoral commission on 0800 36 76 56, or via email at enquiries@elections.govt.nz

Helpful resources:

Easy Read Guide to Voting

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