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Voting Blind on a Danaher Shouptronic (PA)
VotersUnite Exclusive Report

April 22, 2008, by Suzanne Erb, Philadelphia

As a blind voter, I have always wanted to vote privately and independently. In the past, poll workers have assisted me — sometimes only one — and I was not confident my votes had been cast as I intended.

This year, a friend accompanied me to the polls. I didn’t have any trouble registering. I went over to one of the two Danaher Shoutronic paperless e-voting machines, and the poll worker said, “No no, we have the other one set up.” So I went to the machine he said was designated, and he asked me which party I wanted to vote in. I told him, and then I said that I didn’t hear the beep you’re supposed to hear when the machine is ready to be used. He said he thought he had done everything right and didn’t know what else to do.

Meanwhile, I was feeling around to make sure that everything was properly connected. After about five minutes of two or three poll workers trying to set things up right, and reading the manual, one of the poll workers called someone (Danaher or City Hall, I don’t know). Whoever they called asked them if they had pushed the ADA button.

They tried pushing the ADA button, but that didn’t work. In the meantime, thinking that I might not be able to vote at all, I began voting on the machine by telling my friend who I wanted to vote for. Before I was done, the poll workers figured out they needed to shut down the machine and start it up in ADA mode, but then they couldn’t figure out how to cancel my vote. Finally, they were able to cancel my vote, shut down the machine, and bring it up in ADA mode. I felt sorry for the poll workers. They really tried to do the right thing, but hadn’t received the necessary training.

Because of their diligence, I was finally able to vote independently, despite the fact that the instructions were complicated and sometimes counter-intuitive. For example, sometimes “select” meant to select the candidate. And sometimes “select” meant to de-select the candidate — depending on the context. When I was finished, I had to listen to all the selections again, even the ones with only one choice, before I cast my ballot. This took quite a while because there was no way to speed up the speech.

The whole process took about forty minutes — about 30 minutes to vote in eight contests. Though I was able to vote privately and independently, I voted on a paperless e-voting machine, like most other Pennsylvanians, and still have no idea whether my votes were cast as I intended.


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