April 27, 2009
New Option for Visually Impaired Voters
Oregon has been leading the way in providing access to disabled voters and has just announced a new enhancement that will address the needs of visually impaired voters — large format ballots (LFB). Many voters with vision problems simply need larger type sizes on the printed page rather than electronic voting devices called DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) machines.
One of the chief arguments for the continued use of DRE’s in elections across the US is the perception that DRE’s are needed to provide access for disabled voters. Oregon is proving that this is not the only way to assist those who have vision impairments.
Oregon has consistently demonstrated that DRE’s are not the only, or even the best, solution. Oregon has never found it necessary to deploy DRE’s. Instead, Oregon has pioneered paper-based solutions that provide access to disabled voters.
Beginning with the 2008 election cycle, the state deployed Alternate Format Ballots (AFB). Specially equipped computers with a variety of input devices are set up in county election offices around the state. Alternate Format Ballot software provides the correct ballot style. Voters use assistive devices to make their choices and print out their ballots.
In addition, kits consisting of laptops running the Alternative Format Ballot software and equipped with assistive devices can be taken to nursing homes and senior centers to reach even more voters.
Voters with their own specially equipped computers at home can also download their ballot and make their selections before printing it out and sending it to the election office.
So what’s new? Now Oregon is planning to add large print format functionality (18pt font) to the existing Alternate Format Ballot (AFB) Conversion Application. This will be beneficial for visually impaired voters.
This new functionality will allow county elections officials to create, print and mail Large Print Ballots (LPB) to voters with visual impairments. The large print capability will leverage the current AFB conversion application that works with the Oregon Centralized Voter Registration (OCVR) system.
County election officials will have an easy-to-use conversion application that lets them create LPBs quickly and accurately. The conversion application uses the ballot definition data fields county election officials have previously entered into the OCVR to create PDFs of large font ballots. Thus, the LPB and the AFB are created using the same basic data that is used to create the regular printed ballots that are mailed to registered voters.
Oregon uses a variety of optical scanning equipment from ES&S, Sequoia and Hart InterCivic. Since the upfront software engineering needed to interface with the Ballot Definition Files (BDF’s) used in these systems has already been done, other states that also use these systems could move to adopt AFB and LFB and dump their DRE’s.
More details about Oregon’s AFB program can be found on this page on this blog: https://votingmatters.wordpress.com/wp-admin/page.php?action=edit&post=146&message=5
More info about the new LFB program is available here: