There was a deaf couple ahead of me in the line to vote a few
weeks ago. When asked which electorate they were from, the man held up a piece
of paper with his name and other details. Naively, but not surprisingly, I’ve
never given any thought to how a deaf person would deal with this scenario, and
really, any other day-to-day interaction. Of course I know people deal with
disability every day but I’ve never really thought deeply about it. I’ve never
had to.

All this got me thinking about how a blind person might vote,
and all the other ways voting might be affected. The AEC website tells me that
in Australia blind people can register to vote over the phone, with a special
pin number as their confidential identification. Alternatively, they can go to a
polling station and nominate someone else to help them – a friend, family
member, anyone at all, as they’re not a running as a candidate in that
electorate. And they can be helped with a postal vote before polling day.

If a person can’t leave their car for whatever reason, a
ballot may be brought to them. Mobile polling booths are set up for people who
can’t easily travel to a polling booth on election day, like those in hospital,
a nursing home or in remote areas. You can still vote in prison if your sentence
is under three years, and you can be a silent elector, where your address is on
the roll due to safety concerns.

There’s a fascinating section of the website which details
the exact circumstances where you can get away with not voting. You can’t just
not vote because you don’t like any of your candidates. Well you can try, but
it won’t hold up in court as a valid reason not to pay your fine. There are a
whole bunch of cases on the website but essentially an acceptable excuse would
be something extraordinary like coming across a fire on your way to the polling
booth, stopping to help put it out and therefore missing the opening hours of
the polling booth.

In any case, the fine is only $20, and really, why the hell
wouldn’t you vote? It’s an amazing privilege. I can’t imagine thinking “I could
have helped decide the nation’s future but instead I drew a dick and balls.” It
just seems irresponsible when so many electorates went down to the wire this
election as well. Every dick and balls could have been the difference.

Now maybe all these interesting voting facts aren’t so
interesting to other people. Maybe it’s all common knowledge and I just missed
that civics lesson in school. But to me they’re problems or at least situations
that I never have to worry about. So to me, they’re not a problem, they’re
invisible. I would have probably gone my whole life never even considering how
a deaf person might vote. And that’s not my fault and it’s not anyone else’s
either. Why would I need to think about it?

It isn’t a stretch to extend my thoughtlessness to the
problems lots of minority groups have. As a white guy in Australia, I’ve got it
pretty good. I have my own difficulties but I’m healthy, I’ve got a university
degree and a supportive family – statistically speaking, I’m going to be
absolutely fine. Not everyone is so lucky.

So I probably encounter a dozen situations a day where I
benefit from things out of my control. Skin colour, gender, mental health – all
things that don’t seem so important when you’re on top. This all makes me
grateful for where I am in life but also eager to keep looking for what I can’t
easily see.

The election staff member who helped the deaf couple actually
knew their son. Apparently they play bowls together. The guy could even sign a
little. What a wonderful country we live in. Not perfect, but we’re getting

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