Living Below Your Means
A Liberating Experience

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By Davem105
June 8, 2006

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Yesterday, my SO and I who have always been rather active in our civic community, got the opportunity to vote independently for the first time in our adult lives.

Here's what we submitted to the paper minus names and locations. Yes, it was printed with very minor editing.

There are certainly challenges to being a blind couple in a seeing world, one has just been mitigated.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006. Election day in California and our County. Just another in a stream of mid-term elections similar to many in which we have taken part for years. Similar, yes. Exactly the same, decidedly not. For the first time in our adult lives, my SO and I have voted independently. For the first time, as blind people, our ballots were cast in secret with absolute privacy. Yes, the long-standing tradition of a secret ballot has now been made available to anyone whose physical disability might preclude them from marking a ballot in the traditional manor.

As active participants in civic life, unfettered access to the ballot box has always been a problem. We could either depend on a trusted friend to read the ballot and mark our choices at the poling place, request the assistance of a poll worker or depend on the absentee ballot, again with the assistance of another person. For me, this issue really hit close to home not too many years ago. A highly charged issue was on the ballot and I was certain that the poll worker who assisted me did not share my views on the matter at hand. This made me extremely uncomfortable, as I had no wish to offend. Additionally, there was always the possibility that others in the room would have heard my selection, no matter how quietly I spoke. Therefore, being relatively certain of the fact that my one vote would have made no difference to the outcome, I voted in opposition to my belief. Xxx chose not to vote at all on that issue.

In subsequent years, we have completed absentee ballots, initially with the help of a dear friend, now deceased and more recently we've gone to the elections office to complete this process. But as of June 6, those methods have, at least for most elections, been consigned to the history books thanks to the federal Help America Vote act and to modern technology.

On May 30th, one week before the election we went to the Office of
Elections and were given a thorough demonstration of the machine. A simulated ballot was presented, depicting a primary election and listing names of signers of the Declaration Of Independence.

After "voting" for one candidate on the ballot, Xxx wrote herself in as a candidate for President of the United States, bypassing Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and another historical figure of American politics. The exercise demonstrated not only our ability to cast a private ballot, but also to write in the name of a candidate should the need arise.

How it works.
Each polling place will have one electronic touch screen terminal, along with the traditional ballots. This terminal can be operated via the touch screen or push button panel, depending on one's needs. Anyone may request and cast an electronic ballot.

For our purposes as blind voters, a little box resembling a VCR's remote control is attached to the terminal. With the press of a button, vocal descriptions of the ballot's choices are presented to the voter via an earphone. The screen is blank during the process. Left and right arrows, along with a "select" button allow us to move through the ballot making and reviewing our selections, and ultimately confirming our desired choices before officially casting the ballot.

The electronic ballots are stored in memory for counting later. Additionally, there is a paper readout available for hand counting, in the event of a recount.

It is our sincere hope that this is the beginning of a new era. As active members of our community, we look forward to it.

The liberating feeling is truly hard to explain in words.

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