Voting With A Disability Is About To Get Easier

Aug 13, 2019

People with disabilities are testing out new voting technology that will allow them to vote independently. A group of people got to test out the new technology Tuesday at Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Melissa Hoppe practiced on a machine. She says she used the old machine once and usually sends in an absentee ballot with help from her mom.

But this year, Hoppe says she's excited to cast her vote at her local precinct. The new machine lets her control the speed of the voice guiding her through the ballot.

Hoppe says the old machine wasn't efficient. "It took a lot longer than it should have," she says. "It's like my brain was 10 steps ahead of it."

The Hamilton County Board of Elections tested the new machines in May. The new technology allows voters to change the font size and speed up or slow down audio.

Kyle Dallman is a poll work recruiter for the Board of Elections. "The difference here is that the machine being used is just to mark the ballot," he says. "It’s not counting your ballot. It's not remembering your ballot. It's not remembering how you voted or who you voted for."

Currently people with disabilities can cast their ballots through early voting, absentee and online.

The board has been working on an upgrade for the old machine for two years. The federal government funded the older E-Slate machine in 2006.

Ryan Miller works through his ballot using the audio prompts. The screen is disabled to ensure privacy.
Credit Ambriehl Crutchfield / WVXU

Three people raised their hands saying they used the older machines and that it took 45 minutes to vote. Now they will have privacy to mark their ballots and have poll workers handy if they need help submitting their votes in the scanner, which counts all ballots.

"We believe it's secure because the voter cast the ballot themselves," says Director of Elections Sherry Poland. "The voter actually puts the ballot through the scanner and the scanner records an image of the ballot at the time that it left the voter's hand."

Poland says money for the upgrade came from Hamilton County and the state of Ohio.

One machine will be in each polling precinct in November. Until then voters can test out machines at the Board of Elections office in Norwood.