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Voters with a disability will have access to new machines this year

By Staff | Mar 4, 2016

Voters with a disability will benefit from new technology that’s making its debut this election season.

ExpressVote is now available at all Lee County polling places. It’s a method that covers the limitations of every known disability, according to Stephen Brittain with the Lee County Election Office in Fort Myers, and it even features a “sip or puff” mechanism for casting a vote for those unable to use their arms.

The new machines are approved by the Americans with Disabilities Act and are state certified, Brittain said.

Beyond video of the ballot’s contents, the system allows for an audio presentation, in many languages, of the same.

“Basically, the machine reads the ballot out loud,” Brittain said.

That includes any referendum questions, where in Fort Myers Beach this year there are 21 of them.

For the hearing impaired, the contents are available via braille on a touchpad.

The machines also create a paper trail, as required by state law, printing out a marked ballot which then is deposited into the same scanning machine as the other ballots.

ExpressVote replaces the iVotronic machines, which segregated the votes cast by those with a disability.

“We found that some of those with a handicap were reluctant to use those machines because their votes would be separate,” Brittain said. “And some worried they might not be counted.”

Deputies at polling places have been trained to offer assistance with using the new machines. They will also escort those requesting ExpressVote to the machines, bypassing those in line.

They are not allowed to ask for proof of a disability, however, and officials will be hoping people don’t take advantage, a county supervisor of poll workers said.

Voters without a handicap will continue to use the traditional mark-sense voting method, where they darken in a circle to indicate a choice.