Tales from Real Life: Accessibility

Possible futures of election technology … something you read about here a good deal. For some contrast, I want to offer some pointers to real people telling real stories about how real voting systems work today. And I don’t mean the horror stories about voting machine breakdowns and security problems. These stories are from people right in the trenches of trying to make voting systems work today. I’ll start with real life concerns about accessibility.

Noel Runyan reports on his experiences in using voting machines with features for enhanced access for people with disabilities. Enhanced access is a critical of post-HAVA voting systems, but even leaving aside legal requirements, perhaps one in five voters has a disability of some kind relevant to voting, or really any reason to benefit from enhanced access. That includes me, if I forget to bring my reading glasses to the polling place! There is a lot to learn from Noel’s comments — no surprise, since he also led the accessibility portion of the California Top to Bottom Review — and it certainly helps us at TTV retain the appropriate humility towards this one rather large part of the election technology that needs re-inventing. I can’t resist quoting one excerpt:

Why should voters with disabilities continue to be forced to vote on segregated ballot systems that are far too complicated for the pollworkers to operate and that make us vulnerable to disenfranchisement because of poor machine reliability and inadequate training and/or poor attitudes on the part of the pollworkers?

Noel’s specific comments give specific details, showing the room for improvement, and just as important to me, showing how difficult it can be to excel at voting system accessibility.


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