The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires voting systems to provide independent and private voting for all voters — including those of us with disabilities. I use a touch screen machine with audio output to vote — with sound added to the ballot, I put on headphones, listen to the choices, and punch a button on a special contraption connected to the keyboard. That is, as long as someone at the polling place knows how to get the machine and the contraption to work. It isn’t exactly intuitive.
My experience in the last couple of elections has gone something like this: I sign in, and poll workers scramble. All of them seem to want to do right by me, but few of them know what “right” is. Where are the headphones? How do you start the talking machine? Why isn’t the audio working?
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) sets up a toll-free hotline (877-632-1940) on election days to help voters who are blind if we experience problems at polling places. Voting specialists are on the line to help blind voters and/or poll workers resolve the issue, but back during the 2008 election my issue with the voting machine couldn’t be resolved. My husband Mike can see, so he signed an affidavit to be able to help me with a written ballot. Voting specialists on the National Federation of the Blind hotline recorded details and referred my issue “to the proper authorities for follow-up action.”
I’m really hoping things go smoothly at the polling place today — not only for me, but for all of us who are blind and want to vote independently. It’d be swell if none of us have to make use of that hotline number this year, but I’m glad the NFB is ready to help if necessary. Now, off to the polling place. “Whitney, forward!”