By Kate Chamberlin
Thanks to the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), every county in New York State was
required to purchase a new voting system by 2006 that allows people with various
disabilities to vote independently and privately. Upstate New York chose the ImageCast BMD by
Dominion Voting Systems. The Audio Tactical Interface (ATI) is a keypad that was designed for voters who are blind or sighted voters who have good hand dexterity and want to
navigate the ballot in the most efficient way.
In 2008, I didn’t know the machine was at my polling site. In 2009, the Poll Site Worker told me it would take too long to train me. He did not know that I’d been in a focus group to hone the software the machine used and was already trained. In 2010, I brought in guidelines to share with them and we set to work. It was a disastrous and frustrating experience.
I have used the handicap accessible voting machine every year for ten years, but, have yet to actualize a “secret ballot”. Something always goes wrong from not printing on the back, paper jamming in the printer, to the ballot not being accepted by the counting slot, so the Poll Site Worker has to look at my ballot to see what is wrong. This year, the printer spit out a blank ballot, even though the County Election Office said the technician had tested the printer. She suggested I do it again. I thought it a waste of time, since it was the printer that wasn’t working.
As in previous years, my husband took the oath to faithfully mark my ballot, and he filled out my ballot. Some secret ballot!
I have been voting privately and independently every fall since I’ve been of legal age and sighted. The past 36 years, I’ve been blind and have not able to exercise my right as an American Citizen to vote via secret ballot.
I have been trained on how to use the Audio Tactical Interface with the ImageCast Ballot Marking Device by Dominion Voting Systems. I recommend that Wayne County make a better effort to train the technicians that maintain the handicapped accessible voting machine, as well as the Poll Site Workers on how to set up, use, and trouble shoot the unit that is on site.
I appreciate the time and efforts my neighbors put in to doing Election Day duties and activities. Working together we can make a difference in the voting experiences for future Americans with disabilities. I, for one, am not ready to give up.