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New tech allows blind or visually impaired voters privacy while voting

courtesy: Cali4beach / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
courtesy: Cali4beach / Flickr / CC BY 2.0(KNOE)
Published: Oct. 12, 2018 at 5:19 PM EDT
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For many Michigan voters, their right to vote just got a little easier.

New voting machines for Michigan's disabled community were unveiled Friday, ensuring that blind and visually impaired residents will be able to privately and accurately cast their vote in the upcoming midterm elections.

On Nov. 6, thousands of visually impaired Michigan voters will get to cast their ballot in a brand-new, high-tech way.

Once they put on their headphones, the voter-assisted terminal -- or VAT -- will give them speech prompts to let them know which ballot they're selecting, and the candidates they can choose.

Visually impaired people have been able to vote for years but it hasn't always been a private process.

"There would be somebody at the precinct that would mark your ballot for you, and you would also have two representatives, typically one from each of the main two parties watching you, so there was absolutely no privacy at all. You had a crowd around you to assist you to vote," said Scott Norris, an adaptive technology librarian.

Those behind implementing the new machines, which will be at every precinct, believe they'll give voters with disabilities more privacy and freedom.

"Everybody has a right to privacy when they vote, and that should be no different for somebody that is visually impaired. In addition, there's the concept of independence and independent living. To be able to go to the polling place by yourself, to be able to be using a voting machine that is set up specifically to allow you privacy and independence is a core value that underlies our entire election system," said Bill Robinson, director of the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons.

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