Thinking differently, the state of Oregon sent poll workers into the field in advance of today’s election to help elderly and disabled voters cast their ballots; their secret weapon the iPad.
Armed with iPads and portable printers, county election workers are going to parks, nursing homes, community centers and anywhere else they might find groups of voters who have trouble filling out traditional paper ballots.
Using the iPad, disabled voters can call up the right ballot and tap the screen to pick a candidate, with or without the help of election workers. The voters then print the completed ballot and stuff it in an envelope to sign, take with them and drop in the mail or an official ballot box.
Voters with poor vision can adjust the font size and screen colors, or they can have the iPad read them the candidates’ names and even the voter pamphlet. A voter with limited mobility could attach a “sip-and-puff” device to control the screen. Lewis Crews, 75, who has severe arthritis, didn’t have to hold a pen to fill out his ballot.
“It’s a lot simpler for me. I think it’s a great setup they got,” Crews told The Associated Press last week in a phone interview after he filled out and printed one of the first-ever iPad ballots.
Elections officials helped Crews operate the iPad, he said, “but now that I’ve seen how it works I’m confident I can do it on my own.”
State elections officials say they’ll use the same system in the special general election in January. And if the pilot project is successful, they’ll make the service available across the state. They believe Oregon is the first state to try using iPads to mark ballots.
Oregon officials decided to try iPads because their other equipment for helping disabled people vote is nearing the end of its life. The old tools, including laptops with various accessibility modifications, were hauled around in two suitcases and were difficult for election workers to set up.
The iPad has quickly developed a reputation among those who work with people with disabilities for its built-in accessibility features. The addition of Siri to the iPhone may be an unanticipated boon to people with disabilities.
“We attempted to use a handful of different types of devices, and this was the simplest, most accessible and convenient,” [Oregon Secretary of State Kate] Brown told POLITICO.
[Oregon state elections director Steve] Trout said they tested the iPad, Android tablet, a Windows-based tablet, the Lenovo Thinkpad and a regular laptop at several meetings of accessibility groups. All were provided free by the vendors, Trout said.
“Apple was by far the easiest and most effective for assisting people that have accessibility needs. And that was part of the goal of our test pilot, to find out which devices were most effective,” Trout told POLITICO.
State officials said they plan to use iPads again in the January special general election. If the pilot project works at that stage, disabled voters in Oregon can expect the service to be available throughout Oregon from then on. Officials are also looking into the possibility of voters using their own personal iPads to mark a ballot in the January test, Trout noted.
Brown and Trout also touted the iPad’s ability to offer more to disabled Oregonians beyond beyond just the ease of marking a ballot, saying voters can also use it to update their registration information, track their ballots and ask questions online.
“It’s really a useful tool beyond providing voting assistance,” Brown told POLITICO.
One voter with eyesight problems even had the voter’s pamphlet read aloud to her by the iPad, Brown said. “It was really cool, I have to say,” she added.
Elections officials are bringing the iPad and portable printers to assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other areas to provide the service, and voters can also come into election offices to mark their ballots, Brown said.
Oregon election officials said they are hoping the iPad will totally replace the old handicapped accessible equipment program, which is outdated and difficult to use. Approximately 800 people used that service in 2010, the AP reported.
If you happen to be, say, a State Representative who can’t help but tryng to tinker with the electoral process that serves us so well in this state, maybe you could look into something like this that will help people vote, rather than talking about reckless schemes that will deny people the right to vote, are popular with socialist regimes like Canada and San Francisco, California, are is sure to destroy a thriving industry and good jobs in Georgia.