Manitoba

Winnipeg riding to be tech test site

Elections Canada will use a Winnipeg electoral ward in an upcoming federal byelection as the testing ground for a new voting technology that will assist people with disabilities.

Elections Canada wants to use a Winnipeg electoral ward in an upcoming federal byelection as the testing ground for a new voting technology that will assist people with disabilities.

The agency told CBC News it hopes to add an electronic device in the Winnipeg North riding to assist people who are unable to mark a paper ballot under their own power.

The device has several accessibility features, including an easy-to-read screen, tactile braille buttons, a sip-and-puff attachment that allows voters to select options using their breath, a rocker paddle, and an audio track that allows voters to hear instructions and candidates' names through headphones.

The assistive voting device reads and displays the names of candidates, allows the voter to select one, and gives the voter an opportunity to confirm their selection, explained Elections Canada spokesman John Enright.

The use of the technology would be a first for any Canadian federal election, despite the fact some cities use the devices in municipal elections.

Although it is designed for the disabled, any voter can try out the device, said Enright.

"We're not going to prevent any able-bodied person who wishes to try it out just to get a feel for the technology," he said.

The test of the new voting technology at a federal level is awaiting approval from Parliament, Enright said.

The prime minister has until Oct. 27 to call a byelection in Winnipeg North. The riding is expected to be hotly contested after the departure of former NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who is running for the mayor's chair in Winnipeg's upcoming civic election.

With files from the CBC's Meaghan Ketcheson