Voting Problems For Persons With Disabilites Probed In West Hartford

Courant: Panel Aims To Ease Voting Voting By Phone – Voter Describes Difficulty When Poll Workers Lack Training On Use Of Special System <read>

We would not normally describe it as voting by phone, but that is an apt name for the experience. Connecticut’s voting system for the disabled, the IVS, is as cumbersome system for polling place officials and voters, suitable primarily for the blind, if suitable for anyone.

Officials complain of the costs of providing a special phone line installed in many polling places before each election, difficult setup, and in many cases the system remains unused by any voter. The setup requires a test communication over the phone line with a faxed response. In 2010, the Coalition found in our small sample that some IVS systems took hours, or never responded to the setup test. <see page 34>

To vote, voters listen to the ballot over the phone, using the keypad to select their choices, the system responds with a fax that prints a special ballot which the voter must deposit in the auxiliary bin of the box below the scanner. At the end of the day such ballots are counted by hand as they are not scannable. At best the system may only meet the needs of vision impaired voters. In a complex local election it can take half an hour to listen to the ballot and make choices by the touch pad. The IVS is supposed to facilitate independent, anonymous voting, not require the aid of an individual to assist the voter in filling out the ballot. Yet, how independent is it when help is needed in setting up the system? How easy is it for the sight limited voter to collect and deposit the ballot across the room and keep it hidden all the way? How anonymous when at most one or two voters use the system an the ballots are easily identified, even after the election? In 2010, in one report, a voter used the system, waited two hours for the ballot to be faxed, left in frustration, while the ballot did print one more hour later.

Voters should not have to put up with this system. All voters with disabilities deserve a better system. Pollworkers should not have to put up with this system, they deserve a system that is reliable. Yet, pollworkers should be careful to treat each voter with dignity even if they are themselves frustrated.

When the state worked to pick  HAVA (Help America Vote Act) compliant systems for voting and for voters with disabilities, there were many individuals involved at the state and national levels working and pushing for solutions for those with disabilities. Connecticut chose the IVS system, perhaps intended as an interim solution. Since that time we have seen little attention by officials to evaluating purported better solutions. Since that time, we have seen little if any evidence of lobbying or calls for better solutions from or on behalf of those with disabilities.

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