The Nova Scotia Provincial Elections are taking place on Tuesday, August 17. Many people may be worried about going to the polls. What are the alternative to voting in person on election day? And what about seniors with mobility issues?
We know that there is a dramatic drop in voting rates once Canadians turn 65, presumably due to concerns with mobility, pain, vision and hearing, as well as lack of access to transportation to the polls, living arrangements, voter identification requirements, or informal screening by loved ones and caregivers on whether they are capable of voting.
I looked into this topic by reviewing the Elections Nova Scotia website and here’s what I found.
Did you know there is a significant drop in the number of seniors that vote after age 65?
To be eligible to vote you need to be a Canadian citizen at least 18 years old on election day and have lived in Nova Scotia for at least six months
First time voters will also require a Nova Scotia identification, either a valid driver’s licence, Nova Scotia Identification Card or Certificate of Indian Status card. Identification should be brought to the polling station by all voters.
I just registered online and it was relatively straightforward. The security code required me to type in a 5 digit number that wasn’t clear. I always hated these codes. The numbers are not clear and there’s usually some marks in the way of seeing the numbers.
I do not have a visual impairment but I have difficulty with these codes. I suspect anyone with visual or cognitive impairments would agree with me that this is a barrier to completing the form.
Now I’m registered to vote. However, the election is only 10 days away and the message stated I would receive a card in the mail for the next election. Will they have my information at the polling stations or will I get a card in time for the election? This is unclear.
You can also register to vote by mail or email. The application is available to download online but is not a fillable PDF so the voter would need a printer to complete and either mail to Electoral Information Manager, PO Box 2246, Halifax, NS B3J 3C8 or scan and email to email@example.com . Click here for the downloadable form.
Once you’re registered, now where and how do you vote?
To find the closest polling stations, click here .
You can vote at a Return Office
You can vote early at the returning office in your electoral district or any returning office in the province from 9 am to 6 pm every day except Sundays and can find your local returning office by clicking here and adding your address into the search bar.
Vote at an Advance Poll
Advanced polls are open and may be a good way to avoid the crowds and are open Saturday to Saturday (closed Sunday) immediately before election day, from 9am to 6pm (open until 8pm on Thursday and Friday).
Apply for a Write in Ballot by clicking here All eligible voters can apply to vote by write in ballot if they have an email AND a phone number, are able to add their signature using a touch screen or scanned signature and can upload a photo of their identification card.
This option seems good for people who are house bound or want to avoid crowd however, the requirements of needing to navigate technology and use of their hands to hold a pen creates significant barriers to many older adults and people with disabilities. Once the voter has been issued the write in ballot kit, they can drop off their ballot in person, mail or send via email.
Vote In-person on Election Day at Your Assigned Voting Location
This option is the traditional voting option and familiar to most. Polls are open on Tuesday, August 17 from 8 am to 8 pm. You need to bring your voter card and provincial identification with you and you can vote in person. To find out where you vote on election day, check your voter card, click here https://enstools.electionsnovascotia.ca/edinfo55/Location.aspx or call Elections Nova Scotia toll free at 1 800 565 1504 or TTY 1 866 774 7074 .
Accessibility was mentioned on the website and here’s what was said: “Voting locations should have level access for wheelchairs, and tools and services to assist those who have vision or hearing difficulties. If you have a disability and need assistance in voting, check with your returning office ahead of time to make arrangements. In the rare event that your assigned voting location does not have the facilities you need, they will transfer you to one that does”.
I’m frustrated that accessibility is not required for all polling stations as it is required by provincial law (click here for Bill 59).
The NS Elections website states that if the polling station is not accessible, it will be marked on the voter card and then it is the responsibility of the voter to self-identify and ask for accommodation. This in itself is a barrier to having someone vote and I suspect older adults with balance issues are not going to self-identify and may fall when voting at a poll that is not accessible.
If you need help to mark your ballot, you can bring someone to help you but you are required to provide this person. There are special templates for people with visual impairments that are available upon request. For people that are deaf, the website recommends bringing a translator with them at their own expense (assumed) but does not recognize the cost and limited availability of translators. This is a significant barrier for the deaf community.
If you are staying in a shelter or do not have a permanent residence, you have the right to vote as long as you are a Canadian citizen age 18 or older and have lived in Nova Scotia for at least 6 months. Write in ballot is recommended in this case.
I recommended you contact Elections Nova Scotia directly to discuss your options. Active military members that are not home on election day are not specifically mentioned but I suspect that a write in ballot would be the best option, assuming that they have internet access where they are deployed, which isn’t always the case. If you fall into this category, I would talk to your Commanding Officer for clarification on how to vote.
The Election is drawing near and I encourage everyone to vote. If you need help getting your vote in, Asking a neighbour or friend for help is a good idea. Voting is important to older adults as they make up a huge demographic of our community and they should be heard. Offer to help by ensuring that the voter has their voter card, can access a write in ballot or offer to bring them to the polls when you vote can be helpful for the voter and rewarding for you.
Good luck to all the candidates on Election Day!
For more information regarding accessibility and the polls, contact Elections Nova Scotia at 1-800-565-1504, TTY 1-866-774-7074 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Phones are answered M-F 8am-8pm, Sat 9am-6pm.
Joni Snair is a physiotherapist with 15 years experience. She is passionate about making our community more accessible and she owns Safe at Home Physiotherapy where she provides physiotherapy services in your home, avoiding the need for you to go out and strictly follows all Public Health Guidelines.
Election information has been taken from ElectionsNovaScotia.ca