The government has announced two new forms of voting – Braille votes and electronic votes – in a pilot project that will be trialled in the next elections in the district of Évora. However, it will not be extended nation-wide just yet.

The president of the Association for the Blind and the Visually Impaired (ACAPO), who attended a demonstration of the project and personally tested the two options, pointed out that this is an “extremely important step” for blind citizens, even if it may seem simple to most other people.

“It's something that has never happened in our country, and makes it possible for the first time that the visually impaired can vote independently, and be sure that they are voting for the party or coalition they choose” without relying on a third party, explained Tomé Coelho.

Mr. Coelho recalled that, until now, blind citizens have required and depended on assistance to accompany them in elections and vote for them by filling out the ballot.

For Tomé Coelho, the existence of a Braille ballot paper gives blind people “a level playing field in exercising their right and in fulfilling their duty to vote”.

In related news, more than 19,500 people in Portugal requested early voting for the European elections, which are due to take place on 26 May, with Lisbon being the leading district, according to data provided to Lusa News Agency last Friday by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

According to the Ministry, a total of 19,562 voters requested early voting, between 12 and 16 May, in mainland Portugal and on the islands of Madeira and the Azores.

Some sectors of the population were already entitled to vote early, through the absentee ballot, but another of the novelties introduced in this electoral act was the extension of that possibility to all registered Portuguese nationals, without needing to justify the reason.

There are currently 10,761,156 eligible Portuguese voters, in comparison to the previous elections for the European Parliament in May 2014, when there were 9,696,481.