Pretoria - A template specifically designed for blind voters has helped them have a secret ballot for the first time in the 20 years of democracy.

While many people cast their votes in secret, the vote of a blind person has in the past been known to some people at polling stations.

When they arrived at the voting station, they would sit down with agents from political parties and the presiding officer as they awaited their turn to cast their vote.

The officer would ask the blind people what party they were voting for in the presence of the party agents monitoring the elections. Once the blind person responded, the officer would put an X next to that party.

However, with the new template from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), blind voters have in the past two days had the privilege of not having to rely on anyone when casting their votes and also doing it in secret.

The template is as long as the ballot paper and has blocks on the right-hand side. The ballot paper is inserted in the template which is cut out at the corner to ensure that the ballot paper is inserted correctly.

There are numbers from 1-29 on the template, and these numbers, also in Braille, are in the order in which the political parties appear on the ballot paper. All the voter has to do is remember the number of the party they back on the list and then put an X in a block next to it, remove the template and then hand the ballot to IEC officials to put in the ballot box.

Kathy Donaldson, president of Blind SA, said it, the National Council for the Blind and the National Association for the Blind and Partially Sighted, had fought long and hard for this so that blind people could also have a secret ballot.

Donaldson said the template was first used during municipal elections in 2011, but because it was not advocated well, it was not widely used.