Approximately 40 people came to Brandon Community Options’ location at 136 11th St. on Wednesday for a nonpartisan workshop educating people with disabilities on how to vote in the upcoming provincial election.
Many in attendance had never voted before and were keen to learn as much as they could. Others had voted before but wanted a refresher.
This was the first time that the organization has held a voter information session.
Brandon Community Options executive director Brenda Elmes said that she was "blown away" by the attendance at the event. Elmes thought that maybe 21 or 22 people were going to show up, but that figured was nearly doubled.
She also said that voting rights aren’t always well communicated to people with disabilities.
The inspiration for Wednesday’s workshop came from some of the organization’s clients expressing interest in learning how to vote after seeing road signs and hearing the buzz surrounding the upcoming election.
"Even today if out of 40 people if not even half vote, that’s OK, but at least they’re educating themselves, and in the next election they might vote," Elmes said.
Staff started by using a map of Brandon to illustrate what constituencies the participants live and vote in.
Then, they circulated pieces of paper with the names of local candidates and what parties they belong to, colour coding each party by the dominant colour on their street signs.
The requirements for voting were discussed including what pieces of ID people need to bring, who is eligible to vote and how voters can find out where their polling places are.
Participants were able to practise voting with a sample privacy screen and ballot box provided by Elections Canada.
Matthew Gero, 37, a local Special Olympics athlete in floor hockey, bowling, softball and golf, said he was excited to vote for the very first time on Sept. 10.
He also appreciated learning the names of the candidates in Brandon’s constituencies.
Gary Downey, another Special Olympics bowler, said that he has voted before but wanted a reminder on the rules.
Everyone present was invited to a town hall hosted by Disability Matters Vote on Aug. 27 at Rotary Villas at Crocus Gardens to which all local candidates have been invited.
The question of "who should I vote for?" wasn’t answered by organizers striving to remain nonpartisan, but a chance to meet candidates in person might help some make up their minds.
Organizers say that Brandon East NDP candidate Lonnie Patterson and Brandon East Liberal candidate Kim Longstreet have confirmed their attendance and are awaiting responses from the other candidates.
Many of those present headed over to the Disability Matters Vote roadside rally and barbecue at 18th and Richmond after the session.
Elmes said those who missed the session but still want to learn how to and those who might require assistance with voting are invited to contact herself, Tracy Williams from Career Connections, Terry at COR Enterprises or Wendy Kennedy from Westman Opportunities for assistance.
» Twitter: @ColinSlark