Monday, December 13, 2004

National Federation of the Blind on E-voting and Accessibility

Voice of the Nation's Blind: Electronic Voting in the 2004 Election by Michael Nutt, December 1, 2004

Review of a Braille overlay on an electronic voting machine by Christopher Danielsen, December 1, 2004

Accounts of blind voters' voting experiences by Michael Nutt, December 1, 2004

AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal Demonstration by Michael Nutt, December 1, 2004

The December issue of "Voices of the Nation's Blind", a publication of the National Federation of the Blind, features a series of articles about blind voters' experiences in the November 2004 election as well as thoughts about how to move forward with both accessibility and security.



Accessible voting machines are finally a reality. The Automark and many other voting machines accessible to the blind are finally in production, while the laws of our nation require the states to purchase accessible machines and make the entire process of voting accessible to the blind. The machines are only part of the system, though. There are many parts to the voting system, ranging from voter registration procedures, to election procedures, to the security and verifiability of the ballots once they have been cast. Not only must the system work, it must be seen to work, and it must have the confidence of all voters.

Many states have started requiring voter-verifiable audit trails. While in theory this could be done without paper, in reality, proponents of such audit trails argue, with some survey data to back them up, that the majority of voters in the country would not have faith in a system that lacked a paper audit trail. We are confronted with the reality that paper audit trails will be with us for the foreseeable future. Laws requiring them are now on the books in California, Nevada, and Ohio, to name only a few, and there are strong sentiments for such laws in many other states.

The NFB does not oppose such paper trails in principle, but we insist that they must be just as accessible to the blind as they are to sighted voters. All reputable advocates of paper trails agree with our position, and have stated their agreement, although perhaps not as vociferously as we might have liked. Nonetheless, it is still there, not just in the statements of groups like the California Voter Foundation, the League of Women Voters, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and, but also in the laws of our nation and of many of the individual states within it. Where state laws and regulations do not provide for the means of verification to be accessible to the blind, we must make sure they are changed to reflect that imperative.

Most advocates who are concerned about voting agree that the American election system is in dire need of reform, and not just in the technology employed in the voting booth. In the NFB, our primary concern is that we preserve the right for the blind to cast our ballots independently and in secret; however, we should not stand in the way of voting reforms that do not conflict with that goal, and we should bear in mind that all voters have the right to know that the system insures that all votes are counted properly.

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