AutoMARK: Voter Assisted Technology Demo at MIB!

Have you ever thought about visually impaired voters at the polls on election day?:  Do people with visual impairments use the same touch-screen, voter technology that sighted individuals do?  And if so, do they have to be accompanied by another individual–spouse, family member, or even a precinct volunteer, in some cases–to the voting stall, thereby forfeiting their right to a private ballot?  
In a study conducted for the National Federation for the Blind after the 2008 presidential election, it was concluded that over 1/3 of the surveyed, visually impaired voters did not bother with the polls, but rather sent in their ballots as a means of voting.  And that out of the 2/3 who did decide to visit their local precinct, “more than a third (39 percent) relied on the assistance of a family member” at the poll (Chwalow).  While there is still room for improvement for voting accessibility, ADA compliant voting equipment is being installed in many areas around the country, including our own!  In an order given in a Special Meeting of the Jackson City Council this past February, the city authorized 90 new ES&S ADA devices to be placed at each voting precinct (respectively) in Jackson for the upcoming municipal elections.  And in an effort to help voters with visual impairments ready themselves for Tuesday’s primary, Jackson City Clerks, in collaboration with ES&S representatives, have been traveling to assisted living facilities and senior centers to introduce their new adaptable voting equipment, the AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminals.
In order to prepare our visually impaired employees who are registered to vote in Jackson, we too invited representatives from the City of Jackson and ES&S to MIB.  From 2-3:30 PM this past Thursday, the instructors not only introduced the AutoMARK voting machine, but they also allowed each person a hands-on trial of the equipment.   By putting on a provided pair of head phones and going through a list of computer-automated instruction before voting, the visually impaired voter is able to navigate the ballot without the assistance (or influence) from an on-looker.  With a key pad, also marked in braille, the voter with low vision is able to go scroll through the candidates, check and/or uncheck their selections, review their choices (going back if necessary), and print their final choices.  What a great opportunity for visually impaired voters!
Brenda from the City of Jackson prepares for the tech demo Thursday afternoon at MIB.

Mitch from ES&S helps MIB employee, Joyce Granger, navigate the AutoMARK voting machine.
MIB employees and visually impaired individuals from the community listen closely to the instructors during Thursday’s tech demo.

Delois reads aloud the braille on the machine telling her where to insert the ballot.
A BIG “Thanks!” to the City of Jackson for their work in this area.  We were very honored to host this technology demo at MIB thereby making it easier for our employees to vote in the city’s upcoming elections.  Know of a precinct in your area that does not have ADA compliant equipment?  Tell us about it!  Let’s hear your story:

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