New Federal Election Reform – Assistive Technologies In Voting

Isn’t it ironic that President George W. Bush signed into legislation the Help America Vote Act, (HAVA) of 2002?  The […]

Isn’t it ironic that President George W. Bush signed into legislation the Help America Vote Act, (HAVA) of 2002?  The president commented that, AAmericans are a self-governing people, and the central commitment of self-government is free and fair elections.

Of course the events of the 2000 Presidential election in which George W. Bush won his seat as President of the United States started the evolution of better accounting practices during elections.  Since the 2000 election, many companies have developed programs and products to help state and national elections manage the voting at their local polling sites.

In a December letter to Minnesotans, Mary Kiffmeyer, Secretary of State, wrote, AHAVA will allow us to enhance the integrity of our voter registration process, increase privacy and independence for voters with disabilities, improve the election systems that support the absentee voting process, and provide Minnesotans with better information on how to vote.

I was fortunate to attend the Equipment Vendor Fair that the Secretary of State held on December 11-12, 2003 to view the new technologies that are being tested throughout the nation and assess for myself the strengths and weaknesses of these new and upcoming voting machines.  Kiffmeyer has a very tough job ahead of her in the next couple of years.  HAVA will need to be implemented by 2007.  However, Kiffmeyer says, Athey are currently looking at all the different systems and the costs of implementing these systems need to reviewed and funding will need to be secured before the final decision can be made.

So how do these new voting systems affect the disability community?  HAVA requires each voting location in the country have at least one disabled voting station in place by 2007 to allow the voters with disabilities to cast a ballot in secrecy and total anonymity. Many of the vendors have installed some type of assistive technology for the disabled voter to be able to vote, however, Chuck Hamilton from the State Services for the Blind comments that, Athere does not seem to be one system that can accommodate the whole disability community.@  So how does each and every state in the nation decide what new technology they will employ within their voting system and then will all of these systems work together when they need to tally all of the elections? 

Call me a skeptic or call me naive but even working within corporations that have different systems and computer systems relaying information they often have a difficult time securing the results that the end user wished for.  Are we not creating the same chaotic or archaic system that was in place in the 2000 election?  Will all the different systems chosen by each and every state effectively transfer the information from the voter and verify the actual vote?

I have included the websites of each of the vendors at the Vendor Fair. Check out their websites and then contact Mary Kiffemeyer at 651-215-1440 or by email at elections.dept@state.mn.us and let her know your opinion.