Testimony in support of
Don't trade flawed Diebold system for disabled access
deeply regret that I am unable to testify in person at today's hearing because
of serious health problems. Please consider the following as my written
testimony. I am writing this letter as a concerned California voter, an
attorney, and a woman with multiple disabilities. For purposes of this letter,
I am only representing myself, and I do not claim to speak for anyone else.
have researched and thoughtfully considered the issues regarding electronic
voting and I enthusiastically support SB 1723.
I understand that well-meaning advocates are speaking out pronouncing
that electronic voting will revolutionize people with disabilities access to
am particularly offended by the reoccurring claim that people with disabilities
are disenfranchised. This is highly inflammatory rhetoric, ignoring the
definition of enfranchisement, which is a person's right to vote. When I turned
18, I became enfranchised. Not having the ability to vote without another human
being's assistance is the reality that I deal with, but does not make me
disenfranchised. I rely on other people
to help me with tasks that I am not physically able to do, but I remain in
control and independently thinking the entire time. When voting, I can choose
to bring a friend, a family member, or ask one of the well-trained poll workers
voting regulations allow people with disabilities to ask two assistants to help
them cast their vote, thereby providing a supervision component. Access to
private voting technology will be a wonderful enhancement of my right to vote,
but only when such technology is secure and dependable.
Because I am blind and I have manual dexterity impairments, I will be an
enthusiastic user of the future DRE (touchscreen)
system equipped with secure, paper-verified receipts. I have done the research,
and I know that such technology is in development with audio transmittal of both
the text on the screen and the printer output.
Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires assistive technology be available in
wheelchair accessible polling sites by the year 2006. The HAVA Commission's
recent report chronicles many problems with DRE systems and fails to provide
readily achievable solutions for November election preparation.
authors of SB 1723 clearly recognized the needs of people with disabilities by
requiring the Secretary of State to provide audio-recorded state ballot pamphlets
on both audio tapes and CDs. It is my personal experience that assistive
technology continues to improve and gain my trust.
dozen years ago, during law school, I obtained a PC with text-to-speech
software, enabling me to hear what appeared on the screen as I wrote papers or
did my own legal research on the Internet. After four or five years, this
DOS-based system became obsolete as Windows-based, highly-visual systems became
industry standard. Then, a couple years later, a text-to-speech Windows-based
program came on the market and I was once again able to use my computer.
because of my diminished manual dexterity, I await development of an effective
voice-recognition system that will work compatibly with my text-to-speech
system. I know that such software is being developed, but I have heard
manufacturers say that it is a small market demanding such technology.
Therefore, they do not devote many resources to such projects.
contrast, America Online (AOL) provides their customers with the ability to
check their e-mail via telephone, enabling me to listen to my e-mail
correspondence. AOL created this useful technology to help their huge customer
base check their e-mail remotely, but the advancement also incidentally
assisted people with visual impairments.
DRE systems have a potentially enormous customer base and are being developed
rapidly because of this HAVA-inspired market. Providing flawed DRE systems
would erode trust among voters with disabilities as well as able-bodied voters
in California and throughout the country.
If Californians depend on flawed systems, and California has problems in
November, the headlines throughout the country will undoubtedly reflect this
disability rights advocates claim that decertification would be a step back,
treating people with disabilities as second class citizens. I argue that
requiring California voters to use dangerously flawed DREs
will be forcing second rate technology on all of us.
know that DRE system developers are working tirelessly to create dependable
secure systems, and I am confident that one day I will be able to vote
privately without assistance. However, I refuse to act as a complaining
passenger in the backseat asking, are we there yet? I know I will be there soon
enough, but I only want to arrive safely and with everyone on board. I know
that when SB 1723 is passed, you will be heroes for all the citizens of
California, especially voters with disabilities.
Natalie Wormeli, Esq.
Testimony before the
California State Senate Elections and Reapportionment Committee,
May 5, 2004