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Problems with poll machine for disabled people frustrates voter   (MO)

Cara Restelli, KY3 News    05 August 2008

SPRINGFIELD Most voters got in and out of their polling places with ease on Tuesday. A few people, however, faced some challenges trying to cast their ballots.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires all polling sites to have at least one voting system designated for use by disabled voters. Disabled voter Melita Waters says the polling site for her precinct had such a machine but it didn’t work well.

When your vision is impaired, that special machine is the difference between voting with ease and depending on others to help you exercise your civic duty. Exercising her right to vote, Waters has found it to be an exercise in patience.

She first tried the machine in 2006.

“I pushed the buttons and nothing happened,” she said.

She tried it again in 2007.

“I couldn't get speech,” she said.

The third time was earlier this year.

“They had trouble getting speech,” said Waters.

She used it again on Tuesday.

“I couldn't get the machine to recognize the card,” she said.

Each time, it has taken her more than two hours to cast her ballots.

“This is not the way it's supposed to be. That's not why they passed Help America Vote. I don't have two hours to spend at polls every time I vote,” said Waters.

Greene County Clerk Richard Struckhoff says a loose wire is most likely to blame and his staff does what it can to minimize problems.

“All machines were tested last week. All worked fine,” said Struckhoff.

While he says problems with the special machines, which are at every polling place, are not common, he admits he has not been happy with the system.

“We were all pressed to make a decision before technology had a chance to catch up,” he said.

At $4,500 each, the county can't replace them without financial help from the federal government. Waters understands but also says she shouldn't have to pay for someone else's mistake.

“The equipment is there, technology is there, and it ought to be used and working,” she said.

Struckhoff says new federal standards for these machines could come as soon as next year. If that happens, he hopes Congress will also provide money to buy new machines that meet the new standards.

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