Note: Counties debuting the ES&S Machines this month: Box Elder, Cache, Daggett, Davis, Duchesne, Garfield, Grand, Iron, Kane, Millard, Rich, Sanpete, Sevier, Summit, Tooele, Uintah, Wasatch, Wayne and Weber.
Monday, June 11, 2018
By Eliza Stauffer
Change is coming to 19 counties in Utah. It’s an event that has disability activists and assistive technology enthusiasts cheering—we’re getting brand new accessible voting machines!
While most Utah counties vote primarily by mail, other options are available; many voters enjoy the experience of going to the polls and casting their vote. Every county offers electronic voting machines as a way to ensure that voters who have a difficult time reading or marking a paper ballot, can vote privately and independently. Voting machines have been around for at least 13 years. Still, there are always ways to improve ease of use, and the new voting machines have been designed with that goal in mind.
The system has many accessibility features. The machines have an audio capability that can read the ballot to the voter. A voter can also increase the font size and contrast of the print to make it easier to read. Voters who cannot see the screen can turn it off to ensure that their vote is private. Many voters who tested the machines found them easier to navigate. Voters can use a touchscreen or keypad to select their choices, or even plug in adaptive tech like sip & puff or foot controlled devices.
The new equipment adopted by most Utah counties was selected after a rigorous review by a selection committee comprised of election officials, security experts and disability advocates who specialize in accessibility. The committee also took into account feedback from the public who had tried out the machines at a public reception. The selection committee wrote that “The Election Systems & Software (ES&S) accessible voting solution combines paper-based voting with touch-screen technology to meet the needs of voters with disabilities as well as provide a permanent paper record”. The machines don’t record your vote, they just help you mark it. Once complete, it prints it out and you submit your ballot into the same scanning machine as those who make their marks by hand.
While many Utah counties will have these new machines, some will not. Counties sometimes work on different timelines and budgeting procedures. For example, Beaver and Utah counties moved forward with leasing or purchasing new equipment from different vendors during recent years. Other counties are waiting for the expenses to be approved by their governing body. Some election officials are content with the older equipment for now. These counties will still have electronic voting machines, they just are not the newest ones.
The ES&S machines will be making their debut this June for the Primary Election.
If you missed the deadline to mail in your registration don’t fear, you can still register to vote! June 19th is the last day you can register online at www.vote.utah.gov, or at your county clerk’s office. Another option is to register to vote at a polling place. Remember, you’ll need to take your I.D.
The Disability Law Center is happy to answer any questions you might have about voter registration, where you can go to vote or voting on these new machines! Feel free to reach out to us at 800-662-9080. In fact, we are collecting stories/experiences from people who choose to go vote in person. If you’re planning on going to the polls, let us know and you can become one of our Mystery Voters! Contact Eliza: firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Blog post author Eliza Stauffer is a voting activist and an intern at the Disability Law Center. She is also a former Ms. Wheelchair America.