June 16, 2006
Touch screens will help disabled voters
Stacia Woolverton, a visually impaired Tallahassee receptionist, never votes in elections.
She can’t read paper ballots that have been used in Leon County for years, and she doesn’t want to tell poll workers what her vote is. But this fall, Woolverton will have a new option. On Thursday, the Supervisor of Elections Office received 125 Diebold touch-screen machines that include hand-held devices and headphones, allowing the visually impaired to vote independently.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Woolverton said. “I think I’ll try it.”
The county now is compliant with the federal Help America Vote Act, which requires the machines in all voting locations. After the county missed a Jan. 1 deadline to get them, the state pulled a $564,421 grant. The state, county and voting-machine companies went through months of legal wrangling before the county got the machines it needed.
The grant money the county lost is included in the new state budget, so the county should get it back. The machines cost a little more than $600,000, said Ion Sancho, the supervisor of elections.
J.R. Harding, a quadriplegic and an advocate for the disabled, said he’s excited about the new machines, although he hasn’t had a chance to try them yet. Sancho’s office will demonstrate the machines during various upcoming events.
“We should always be able to maintain the right to be able to go to our own precinct and execute a vote with our friends and neighbors that’s reliable, independent and private,” Harding said.
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER