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Blind Voters Worry About Balloting Changes

In an election during a pandemic, many fear loss of privacy and independence
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 14, 2020 10:35 AM CDT

(Newser) – Not that long ago, Ann Byington had to squeeze into a voting booth with a Republican poll watcher on one side and a Democrat on the other reading her voting choices out loud so her ballot could be marked for her and the selections verified. Blind since birth, Byington welcomed the rise of electronic voting machines with technology that empowered people with disabilities to cast their ballots privately and independently. But now, as election officials plan a vote-by-mail expansion to reduce voting in person during the coronavirus pandemic, Byington worries she is being left out. When the presidential primary in Kansas was held entirely by mail last month, the AP reports, the 72-year-old Topeka resident had to tell her husband how she wanted to vote so he could fill out her ballot. "I'm back to where we started," Byington said. "I've lost all my freedom to be independent, to make sure it's marked how I want it to be marked."

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In recent weeks, advocates for the blind have filed legal actions in Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania seeking access to systems already in place to deliver ballots electronically to military and overseas voters. Blind voters could then use their own computers and assistive technology to read and complete their ballots themselves. All three states agreed to make electronic ballots available in primaries for voters with disabilities, and more actions are likely before November. Voting technology experts have raised security concerns about such internet-based systems and warn about implementing a new process so close to an election. "I really don't have a good solution to offer," said a computer science professor. "We seem to have bad and worse. The bad is accepting someone helping to mark your ballot. And the worse is rushing to put in totally untested technology that I don't have any reason to trust at all."

(Read more voting stories.)

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