Innovative Policy 2019 on Independent Living and Political Participation

Tactile Ballot Guides for Blind Voters

The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Georgia, the government body that oversees all Georgian elections, has produced a tactile ballot guide to allow blind voters to vote independently. The ballot uses round cut-outs on the left side of the guide to represent the sequence of the candidates. In addition, an audio guide provides blind voters with the sequence of the candidates, enabling them to cast their vote privately. The CEC uses standardized ballot papers, so the guides can be used in all elections and referendums in Georgia. Usage has increased from 330 voters in 2016 to 527 voters in the presidential election of October 2018.

“By using the special tactile ballot guide I, as a blind voter, have participated in every election held in Georgia since 2016 without assistance and, most importantly, I have independently made my own choices.”

Irma BarabadzeChief Social Worker, Social Service of the Union of the Blind in Georgia
About the policy at a glance
Laws and regulations involved:Tactile Ballot Guide
Responsible Body:Central Election Commission
Country
of Implementation
Georgia

FACTS & FIGURES

  • As of 2018, the CEC has produced 4,400 tactile ballot guides.
  • Tactile ballot guides were available in all 3,647 election precincts for the 2018 presidential election.

PROBLEMS TARGETED

Despite several projects implemented by the CEC, blind voters living in Georgia were not able to vote independently without the assistance of another person.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

Blind voter counts and selects political subject during mock election.In 2016, the Central Election Commission created a standard ballot paper for all elections in the country, thus providing the basis for developing a solution to allow blind voters to vote independently. To develop the tactile ballot guide, the CEC looked at international best practices and worked with a number of NGOs, including the Union of the Blind in Georgia. The tactile ballot guide made of durable paper has cut-out holes and lines along one side to indicate the sequence of candidates. The ballot paper is placed under the guide and an audio recording describes the parties and candidates that correspond to the holes. The guide can be used multiple times and does not require knowledge of the Braille font.

To promote the guide and explain how it works, the CEC produced videos and partnered with the Union of the Blind to hold information sessions and mock elections; and following the 2016 election the guide was updated and further improved. To make the information about the tactile ballot guide available online to blind voters, the CEC official website was adapted in line with the principle of universal design. For the 2018 presidential election, guides were available in all 3,647 election precincts and were used by 527 voters.

OUTLOOK, TRANSFERABILITY AND FUNDING

The policy is fully financed from Georgia’s national state budget. The overall cost of the project was $6,500, with a cost per tactile ballot guide of $1.45.

The guide is replicable in other countries, as it is inexpensive to produce and can be used in different types of elections. The CEC has already presented its work in international meeting, and it is actively sharing information with election administrations in other countries.

In the 2018 municipal election, Georgia piloted electronic vote counting for the first time in three electoral precincts of one electoral district. As such, different ballot papers were printed and CEC prepared an adapted tactile ballot guide for these papers. This will need to be considered if these electronic pilots are expanded.

Blind voter enters polling station.

CONTACT
FACTSHEET

Download factsheet as accessible word
download