NORMAN — Previous elections have allowed voters with disabilities, in particular blind voters, in Cleveland County and throughout Oklahoma to vote unassisted, many for the first time ever. This is not possible because of new voting machines.
But though previous municipal and primary elections have allowed for County Election Board officials such as Cleveland County Election Board Secretary Jim Williams to test and demonstrate the new equipment, the upcoming General Election will bring out voters who will be using the new machines for the first time ever.
In an effort to streamlinet hat experience, staff from the Oklahoma State Election Board recently demonstrated the accessibility features of the new voting machines to blind and visually impaired individuals at NewView Oklahoma, the state’s largest employer of blind and visually individuals.
“The accessibility features built into Oklahoma’s new voting machines provide a means for disabled citizens to vote privately and independently on the important federal and state contests and state questions to be decided by voters on Nov. 6,” said Paul Ziriax, State Election Board secretary.
The state’s previous voting machines offered no accessibility features, though an accessible telephone voting system was available at each precinct. Many blind and visually impaired citizens brought someone with them to the polls to assist them in voting.
“Using the innovative audio-tactile interfac, blind voters can listen and scroll through an audio version of the general election ballot to make their choices. Other disabled citizens can plug their sip and puff or paddle devices into the ATI to cast their ballots” Ziriax said. “The state has gone to great lengths in selecting and implementing our new voting system to ensure that all of Oklahoma’s citizens can fully exercise that most important of rights—the right to vote.”
Employees of NewView Oklahoma and members of NewView Oklahoma’s support group for blind and visually impaired veterans took part in the demonstration.
“Before I had to take someone with me to vote,” Mike Dunn, NewView Oklahoma employee, said. “Now there’s more independence with this machine. I’m excited to use it.”
“NewView Oklahoma’s mission is to empower blind and visually impaired Oklahomans to live independently,” said Lauren Branch, president and CEO of NewView Oklahoma. “Giving disabled citizens the opportunity to vote without assistance tells them that they are an equal and vital part of the community.
“We are thrilled that the State Election Board demonstrated these new features for our employees,” Branch said, “and we timed the demonstration so that our blind and visually impaired veterans could also participate. This year, perhaps for the first time in many years, those veterans will be able to independently exercise one of the basic rights they fought to protect.”
NewView Oklahoma — formerly Oklahoma League for the Blind — is a private, not-for-profit organization founded in 1949 with a mission to empower people who are blind and visually impaired to achieve the maximum level of independence through employment, rehabilitation and community outreach.