June 20, 2005

From: Bob Hachey, President, Disability Policy Consortium

Re: access to the secret ballot and integrity of the voting process


I am writing today to address concerns of persons interested in voting that is both accessible and free from fraud and other irregularities. Given today's technology, these goals are not mutually exclusive. Marking systems such as the AutoMark would further both of these goals.


Along with many other blind and visually impaired Americans, I've been advocating for the right to vote privately and independently for over ten years. During this time period, I've read plenty of stories of irregularities in elections, particularly those in 2000, 2002 and 2004. IN some cases these irregularities were caused by faulty ballot design. In other cases, the culprit was faulty voting equipment that did not allow for a recount. When the Help America Vote Act passed in 2002, I began to look forward to the day when I as a totally blind person could cast my ballot in secret just like most other Americans.

Since that time, I've had the opportunity to try out several different accessible systems. Some were more user friendly than others. Some offered the ability to handle paper recounts while others did not.


Overall, the system that best meets the needs of accessibility and election integrity is the AutoMark system. I found this system to be very user friendly for the blind, many physically disabled individuals and those with cognitive disabilities. I also noted that this marking device works well with optical scan systems currently in use in many municipalities. I have been told that the AutoMark can be used with any paper ballot. Since many poll workers are already familiar with optical scan systems, they will not need as much training with the AutoMark system as they might with other options.


In conclusion, I would recommend that any municipalities that have not yet purchased accessible voting systems should purchase the AutoMark or similar systems. For those municipalities that have purchased Direct Electronic equipment that does not allow for a paper recount, I would advise them to consider switching to a system such as the AutoMark. Keep in mind that with the AutoMark, everyone uses the exact same ballot in the voting booth. One final and very important thought here. Neither the Disability Policy Consortium nor I will support any proposals that postpone the date by which all polling places must be made accessible to the blind and others prevented from reading the printed word. With technology such as the AutoMark available, increased election integrity need not delay accessibility to the secret ballot.


Feel free to contact me with comments or questions at 781-893-6251 or bhachey@comcast.net.