Today, along with many of my fellow Americans, I went to my local precinct to cast my ballot for president, Senate, House races, and several other positions and bond issues. Don’t worry… This post isn’t going to be about who to vote for or who to not vote for… You will see enough of that on social media and on the news.
Though I’ve been eligible to vote, and have voted, for the past 20 years, and though this is my sixth presidential election, this was the first election in which I was able to vote mostly independently, without Sighted assistance. When I lived in Arizona and Washington, generally, I had to have someone assist me in filling out the ballot… Usually a relative or trusted friend. In Arizona, all we had were the paper ballots. There were no accessible voting terminals when I became eligible to vote in 1996, until my departure at the end of 1999. In Washington, we had a mix of in person voting and mail in voting. Accessible voting machines were introduced during my time in Washington. However, gaining access to one was often inconvenient. You either had to attend a meeting of ACB or NFB… Or you had to go to one specific polling place in order to use them. So, I continued using paper ballots, and having someone I trusted help me in the privacy of my home and mailing the ballot in after I was finished.
Now, I live in Ohio. I knew, from visiting a polling precinct in Springfield last year, that accessible voting terminals were much more readily available here than I had ever experienced in Washington state. However, due to when I arrived in the state and registered to vote, I had not registered in time to vote in the contest last November. With that said, today, I was looking forward to trying The machines… Don’t get me wrong. I trust my fiancé completely, and if I had needed to have her assist in filling out a ballot, I know I could count on her to do it, and to cast the vote for the candidates and positions as I dictated them to her. But, having that freedom to do it myself is truly awesome.
I reported to my precinct, which is housed in the gymnasium of the school portion of the church I currently attend. At first, I wasn’t sure how things would go… When we asked the poll workers about speech and or braille, none of them were quite sure as to what would be available. After some difficulties, we found a worker who knew how the machines function. It turns out that all of the machines have an audio option… They have headphones available if you need them, or you can do as I did and use your own earbuds or headphones. The buttons are clearly marked in braille. Once they had the machine set up, I was able to go through the entire Ballot without issues. Yes, it may have taken me quite a bit longer because the audio is much slower than I’m used to listening… But, I was afforded the same right to privacy and secrecy of my vote as my Sighted counterparts.
No matter who wins the top job, no matter how the races turn out… For the first time, I truly know how my ballot was cast. The machine spoke very clearly, letting me know who or what I was selecting, and even went over my selections at the end, allowing me an opportunity to make changes if necessary. Like I said, I’m thankful to those who have assisted me with voting in the past, even if my vote differed from theirs… But having the freedom to cast my vote and take my time is A truly awesome feeling.
If I could change anything about the process, I would suggest that poll workers need to be better trained… Even if you don’t show every worker every function of the machine, they should at least know what is available for their blind voters, as well as those with any other disabilities requiring assistance. Other than that, I must say, I was very pleased with my experience.