New Voting Machines for Michigan's Disability Community Assures Equal Access on Election Day

Live demonstration today of new federally certified and ADA compliant voting equipment

Media Contact: LARA Communications 517-373-9280
Email: mediainfo@michigan.gov

October 12, 2018 - Today’s demonstration of one of the State’s new voter assist terminals for Michigan’s disability community affirms their right to cast a private and independent vote on Election Day, November 6. The presentation was hosted by LARA’s Bureau of Services for Blind Persons’ Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL), in partnership with Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR).

“It’s important that every registered voter can exercise their right to vote. I encourage persons who are blind and visually impaired to cast their ballot this election season,” said BSBP Director William Robinson. “I also would like to thank the Secretary of State and local clerks for the accommodations available for all voters.”

Robinson, and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, along with clerks in communities throughout the state want to ensure that members of Michigan's disability community know they can cast a private and independent vote using the same ballot as every other Michigan voter. 

“Michigan has made a strong commitment to empowering all citizens to cast a ballot independently and privately,” Johnson said. “I thank all the clerks across the state for the work they do to help ensure polling places are fully accessible for voters with disabilities.”

The new terminals replace the outdated Automark devices and were developed to assist people with all types of disabilities, among many others. Benefits of the new terminals include:

  • Detachable devices for voters to make selections more easily.
  • Better touchscreen displays that are more readable with higher contrast viewing possible.
  • Continual work by the device manufacturers, as part of their contract with the state, to improve the devices for voters with input from the Bureau of Elections and disability advocacy groups.

“With the help of new voter-assisted terminals, differently-abled Michiganders will enjoy their right to express their preference for leaders locally, statewide and nationally,” said Kim Woolridge, interim director of the State ADA Compliance Division of MDCR. “People with disabilities have told me that this technology is life-changing and positive. VAT represents a turning point in making voting more accessible for citizens of all abilities.”
The ballot marking devices are available to all voters with special accommodations for hearing, visual, physical and other disabilities. Full ballot instructions along with step-by-step instructions on how to use the new voter assist terminals are available on the Secretary of State’s Voting Equipment webpage and on the Michigan Elections YouTube Channel.

Scott Norris, a BTBL official who is legally blind, demonstrated how the terminal marks the voter's selections on paper that becomes their ballot. Voters can select their choices using a touch screen. Personal adaptives may also be used to assist voters in making their selections. The completed ballot is then fed into a tabulator, which scans and records and counts the votes like all other ballots.

Voters with disabilities are encouraged to contact their local clerk to utilize available resources to become familiar with the new terminals.

To ensure accessibility, federal and state laws require polling places in Michigan's cities and townships provide a reasonable number of accessible registration facilities and remove or make accommodations for any barriers that prevent voters with disabilities from voting. Doors should not be blocked, alternatives to stairs such as ramps or elevators should be available, and lighting and seating should be adequate. At least one voting station per polling location should be adapted to allow a person to vote while seated.

Voters with disabilities who require assistance in casting a ballot may receive assistance from another person, provided the person assisting the voter is not the voter's employer, agent of that employer or an officer or agent of a union to which the voter belongs. Voters who cannot vote without assistance at the polls may also vote by absentee ballot. 

The Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) in the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) provides training and other services for individuals who are blind or visually impaired to achieve employment and/or independence in the careers of their choice. For more information about BSBP, visit www.michigan.gov/bsbp or call toll-free: voice 800-292-4200; TTY 888-864-1212.

The Braille and Talking Book Library is part of BSBP’s Vocational Rehabilitation programs which are funded 78.7 percent through a VR grant from the U.S. Department of Education and 21.3 percent through State funding. Total Federal funding for Federal Fiscal Year 2018 was approximately $17,263,000.

For more information about LARA, please visit www.michigan.gov/lara
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