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New Brunswickers with disabilities have options to vote privately and safely

Click to play video 'New Brunswickers with disabilities have options to vote privately and safely' New Brunswickers with disabilities have options to vote privately and safely
As election day approaches, one organization is working to inform New Brunswickers with disabilities what their options are for voting privately and independently.

Patty O’Donnell is eager to cast her vote in the provincial election, but going to the polls isn’t an option for her.

“Because of being blind, crowds and me don’t work,” she said.

New Brunswickers with disabilities and those at a high risk of contracting COVID-19 are still keen to cast their ballot during the pandemic.

Elections New Brunswick has assistive voting options for those that can’t travel.

“Last year it was really good, I was really comfortable because they came to my house,” said O’Donnell.

Read more: Doctors want health care to become top issue in New Brunswick election campaign

Elections New Brunswick also has curbside voting available at polling locations.

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“In that case, an individual who might have some mobility issues would have to have someone else with them that could go in and let the poll supervisor know that there is an individual who would like to be able to vote from their car,” said Kim Poffenroth, the chief electoral officer.

This year the agency has seen an increase in interest for mail-in ballots.

Applications can be picked up at returning offices or downloaded from the Elections New Brunswick website or in person.

“We have braille controllers, sip and puff, paddles that can be used,” said Poffenroth.

Since politicians can’t go door to door to pitch their campaign to voters, and many people do not have access to the internet, the New Brunswick Association for Community Living is assisting clients with information on party platforms.

“In the past, I had people tell me who to vote for and I don’t think that’s the right thing to do,” said O’Donnell.

Click to play video 'PC leader Blaine Higgs announced his party’s candidate for Saint John Harbour riding' PC leader Blaine Higgs announced his party’s candidate for Saint John Harbour riding
PC leader Blaine Higgs announced his party’s candidate for Saint John Harbour riding

Ken Pike, the social policy director for the New Brunswick Association for Community Living, says the snap election means there wasn’t a lot of information available on parties’ policies before it was called.

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“It was called quickly and there was not a lot of pre-election airing, if you will, where parties were getting their positions out on a number of things. There is going to be a bit of a challenge for people to find out what parties are promising,” Pike said.

Poffenroth says early voting will be important for vulnerable voters.

“For our most vulnerable voters, it’s important to flatten the election curve, meaning vote early, take advantage of those early voting opportunities,” said Poffenroth.

In this snap election, time is of the essence.