Technology helps keep votes private

January 31, 2008 10:53:45 AM PST
Illinois is one of 24 states voting on Tuesday. Voting is a private choice for every American citizen, including those with disabilities.

Federal accessibility laws have made it easier for people with disabilities to vote at polling places. Things keep getting better and better.

Cook County Clerk David Orr demonstrated for ABC7 the latest touch-screen voting machine. It has adapted features for voters with disabilities.

"So a voter, let's say who couldn't see, could do it this way," said Orr. "Another voter might want to use the audio and still see some of the screen, and a lot of the voters who, their sight is not too good, they might want to see the screen but blow it up."

Every polling place in Cook County will have at least two touch-screen voting machines. "Some of the bigger ones have three or four," said Orr.

This machine is only available in Chicago and Cook County. "Lake County has a different system. DuPage has a different system," said Orr.

Accessible polling places is another concerns of voters with disabilities. Suburban Cook County has 2,400 polling places.

"And now over 99 percent of those are quote-unquote accessible. That means they meet the national standards of wheelchair if necessary, and for those few remaining that we have the less then 1 percent, we'll do certain things like we might buy a ramp and give it to the church," said Orr.

Election judges are required to attend sensitivity training.

"We love our judges," Orr said, "but we know when you got 12,5000 they're not all as great as we like, and so we follow up that to be judges they have to pass tests, they got to go through all this training, and as unfortunately it happens, sometimes there are some judges we have to remove."

Orr says they still have room for improvement.

"This is improved but it's still one of the big issues for the community is how well one can navigate. So the improvements we've made to make it easier for someone. That's the stuff we're working on is to make this as manageable as navigable as possible."

It is important that people with disabilities can independently vote on Election Day.

"One of the leaders in the country in the disabled movement, his quote is always, 'I may love my wife, but before I had to trust when I told her to vote this way, now we don't.' "

Questions related to voting and accessibility can be answered at