I tried to avoid the political ads as much as possible this year. It seems like all that one can learn from them is the answer to that queston, "How low can you go?" But I actually really did care about this election.
It's the first big election I've been able to vote in, since I wasn't able to vote in 2004. But this year, I got to vote. And it was the coolest experience.
For those who may not be aware, before this year, a blind person was not guaranteed a private, accessible ballot. There were three options in how to vote:
- Apply for an absentee ballot and have someone help you fill it out.
- Bring a friend to the polls and have them fill out your ballot.
- Have two election judges fill out the ballot for you (the idea here is to make sure that this ensures that the ballot is marked properly.)
The problem with all three of these options is that the vote is no longer privat. I have no choice but to tell someone else how I voted. I don't care how professional election judges are (I know several and do trust them), but I should have the same rights to access as the rest of the country. And, yes, I know about all of the debates about whether people actually do have access, but that's beyond my little brain right now.
Yesterday, I got to vote! And it was so cool! So, here's the story:
I chose to vot in my home-city, instead of at college. Part of this is because I wanted to vote on some issues tat I could only vote on at home, and the other part is that I wanted to know how things went with the voting machine at home. I know that the whole state is using the AutoMark machines for accessibility, but I wanted to see what it would be like voting at home. So my sister picked me up, and being the people we were, we grabbed lattes for the long drive home.
Traffic was horrendous! It seemed worse to me than usual, which may have been due to the elections, or my pain causing a shorter fuse than normal. It made the commute much better to have coffee with me though.
When we got there, there was quite a line. This was not a good thing, since pain levels were at least a 7.5, and that's an intentional underestimation. Dad had already voted, and asked the election judge if I could use the machine and avoid all standing for so long. To be clear, no one was using it at the time. I got in quickly, which was good.
The electtion judge was a bit unsure about guiding Julio and I, but once I showed her sighted guide, everything was fine. She took me to the table where you sign that you've registered, and get a voters receipt. The cool thing was that they hven had a signature guide and knew how to use it. A signature guide is a little window (usually plastic), that you can put on the line where you need to sign to have a guide of where the line is and how much room you have.
The judge showed me how to work the machine, which was simple. It has a large-buttoned tactile keypad which is pretty easy to use. Every key beeps when pressed, and there is speech feedback to read the ballot and tell you what you've chosen. I turned off the screen and went through the ballot. After I got done after about 20 minutes (I didn't know there was so much stuff on a ballot!), put my ballot in the machine and got my "I voted" sticker.A friend, who reads this journal, got to see me grinning like a fool. I was so excited that I got to vote privately, accessibly and independently. I got to see a summary screen before my ballot was printed, which made it easy to make sure I'd done things correctly.
I know that I had almost nothing to do with accessible voting being a reality. I didn't know anything about advocacy when the Help America Vote act got passed. All I've done is tell people about the issues of voting as a blind person, and write one letter to the editor. I am so grateful to those who have fought to make the great experience I had a reality.
I know that the great experience I had may not have been the reality for everyone. I know that
The BBlind Access Journal
has been covering this, and after class, I will look for more accounts of the experiences of people with disabilities who voted in this election. I'd love to have a list of posts and podcasts about this issue! If you wrote one, and don't mind being linked to, please drop a link in the comments and I'll try to add it at the end of this post. But given my own human limitations of time and energy, I'd advise people to check the comments if there are any.