The State of Maine will be implementing the use of new ballot-marking devices in the upcoming elections that will improve the experience for voters with disabilities.
Following an in-depth bidding and review process, the Department of the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions has chosen the ExpressVote system, a product of Election Systems and Software, LLC, as its accessible voting platform.
The ExpressVote consists of a single unit with a video display screen and built-in ballot printer, with a controller attached. It is designed to accommodate any voter by offering both an audio and visual ballot, allowing a voter to make ballot selections by touching the screen or by using a controller that has uniquely shaped and colored buttons, with Braille labels. It also has the capability to accommodate various other assistive devices. When the voter is finished making the selections, the system prints a ballot marked with the voter’s choices.
“There are few things more sacred in a democracy than the right to vote,” said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. “This system, under the intent of the law, allows people with physical challenges, as much as possible, to vote without assistance – ensuring not only their right to vote, but also their right to a secret ballot.
“This is an aspect of the Help America Vote Act that we feel very strongly about, and we are excited by the new developments in technology,” said Dunlap.
The state’s current method of compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 consists of a phone line that allows voters with disabilities to listen to an audio ballot and select the choices by pressing a button. The ExpressVote units will represent a significant upgrade in the user experience, providing both an audio and a visual ballot, and allowing voters to “move around” on the ballot just as they would with a traditional, printed ballot.
The decision to choose the ExpressVote was made by an evaluation team that included several Elections Division staff members, municipal clerks and advocates for people with disabilities. Integral to the team’s decision was the feedback from voters with disabilities who volunteered their time to test the technology.
The ExpressVote is expected to be debuted at the June primaries. The accessible voting system can be used by any voter and will be available at all voting places.