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ASPartOfMe
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12 Feb 2024, 10:28 am

The Age

Quote:
Autism advocates are pushing for a “quiet hour” and other sensory-friendly changes at polling booths for neurodiverse people to eliminate barriers preventing them from voting.

The loud noises, bright colours and long queues on election day can be overwhelming for neurodiverse voters such as Ben, who found himself gripped with anxiety when he knew he would have to cast a ballot in last November’s Mulgrave byelection, which was sparked by the resignation of local member and former premier Daniel Andrews.

In the lead up to the election, the 21-year-old, who has autism, feared the congestion, noise and unfamiliarity of the voting centre would trigger a sensory overload that occurs when the brain has difficulty processing information including sounds, smells and sights.

“Knowing you have to do it [voting] causes anxiety and it is constant,” Ben said from his home in Melbourne’s outer south-east. “It’s extremely overwhelming.”

When it came time to vote, Ben travelled to an early voting centre with a support worker who helped him navigate the lengthy wait and encounters with political volunteers handing out how-to-vote cards.

“I just wanted to get in and get out,” he said.

With a federal election due by May next year, Ben is already planning to wear noise-cancelling headphones and a lanyard identifying him as having a hidden disability in order to get through the day.

Ben’s story will be considered as part of a bipartisan parliamentary inquiry into the 2022 state election, which advocates hope will lead to polling booths becoming more inclusive for neurodiverse voters.

Other options being backed by autism advocates include separate entrances away from the public or the opportunity for neurodivergent voters to book a time to cast a ballot.

“It’s everyone’s human right to participate in democracy and that needs to include all our voices. We need to showcase and celebrate their voices,” Spencer said.

In August, the Victorian Electoral Commission trialled some low-sensory adjustments at one early voting centre during the Warrandyte byelection to make in-person voting more inclusive, but it has so far not committed to bringing in permanent changes at general elections.

While Spencer said she would like sensory-friendly options introduced before the next election, she said some people with autism would never feel confident leaving their homes for a voting centre and should be able to qualify for a postal vote.

The commission says that to qualify for a postal vote you must live in a remote area, be seriously ill, be aged over 70 or be unable to attend a voting centre for religious reasons.

Spencer said clarifying the criteria for postal voting was one option for people who felt anxious about voting in person.

Labor MP Luba Grigorovitch, the chair of state parliament’s electoral matters committee, said that in a robust democracy every eligible elector should have a chance to vote and that she wants the election process to be as inclusive as possible.

If the only option in your locale is a regular polling booth with no accommodations my advice would be to go during the quietist time of day available. In my areas it is weekdays from 9AM to noon. The evenings are most crowded. If early voting is available I would vote then.


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DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

It is Autism Acceptance Month

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


IsabellaLinton
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12 Feb 2024, 11:03 am

That's a clever idea in the article.
I've avoided voting some years for that reason.
The queue can be overwhelming.

I won't vote by myself either.
I feel too weird standing there alone.
If my kids aren't home, I don't vote.

Early voting is better, but I still won't go alone.


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steve30
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15 Feb 2024, 9:56 pm

Well, there's me voting all these years and never knowing it was such a problem.

Having said that, here in England, anyone can apply for a postal vote. I've been voting by post for a number of years because it was inconvenient once, and I've carried on doing it since.

I think last time I voted in person, I did it first thing in the morning and it was quiet.



MatchboxVagabond
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16 Feb 2024, 9:08 am

Around here we've been voting absentee for quite a few years now. There are a few polling centers and they're primarily for people with disabilities that need the help. It works pretty well, you get a bunch of time to read the ballot, do whatever research you need to do, and then you simply put it in a mailbox or drop it off at one of the numerous permanent collection boxes by the due date.

I don't really get why that isn't just the normal way of doing it. Fraud is extremely low and it allows basically anybody with an address to vote. (Without an address was always a bit of an issue just based on how the districts are organized)

steve30 wrote:
Well, there's me voting all these years and never knowing it was such a problem.

Having said that, here in England, anyone can apply for a postal vote. I've been voting by post for a number of years because it was inconvenient once, and I've carried on doing it since.

I think last time I voted in person, I did it first thing in the morning and it was quiet.


That's how it was here until voting by mail became mandatory for nearly everybody.



MatchboxVagabond
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24 Feb 2024, 10:34 am

I just got my ballot in the mail yesterday. I would personally push for the vote by mail option as the default and for the accessible voting centers to provide appropriate accommodations for the autistic community. I've never actually been to one of our physical voting locations in many, many years, but presumably they're quiet enough to not be an issue due to the lack of people using them as virtually everybody just pops the ballot either in the mail or the drop boxes.