Volusia County Voters Get Accessible Machines
NFB Lawsuit Forces Compliance
Baltimore, Maryland (August 9, 2006) Blind voters in Volusia County, Florida will be able to vote independently and in secret, thanks in large part to the hard work of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. County election officials are in the process of demonstrating Diebold touch-screen machines with audio output to voters in preparation for a September 5 primary election. The machines will be in use for early voting in late August.
Volusia County was the single holdout jurisdiction in Florida refusing to adopt accessible voting machines, citing concerns about their security and reliability. The county wanted machines that could produce a voter-verified paper trail. But in the summer of 2005, it was clear that the delay in purchasing new voting equipment would mean that the county would not have accessible machines in time to meet the January 1, 2006, deadline for jurisdictions to purchase such equipment as set by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). This unacceptable situation prompted the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, with assistance from the National Federation of the Blind national office (in Baltimore, Maryland), to file a lawsuit demanding that the county be compelled to purchase voting technology that blind people could use independently. County officials quickly agreed to purchase accessible voting equipment in time to allow blind voters to use it in the 2006 elections.
Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said “We strongly support the Help America Vote Act, and we will continue to be vigilant to make sure jurisdictions comply with this law’s clear mandate that we, the blind, be able to cast our ballots in complete privacy, just as our sighted friends and colleagues have been able to do for generations. The Volusia County case demonstrates that our determination to make independent voting a reality for the blind is paying off.”
In compliance with HAVA, each Volusia County voting precinct will have one machine that can be used by blind voters to cast their ballots using audio prompts and a telephone-style keypad. Voters can vote using optically scanned paper ballots instead if they choose.