The state of Oregon aims to improve accessibility to voting for all citizens, say Secretary of State Kate Brown and Stephen Trout.

Oct 02 2012

How iPads Are Making Voting More Accessible in Oregon

Technology is making voting easier for disabled citizens.

After testing Apple iPads in three elections over the past year, Oregon will purchase additional tablets this fall to provide people with disabilities with more ways to vote in the November general election.

Voters with impaired vision, for example, can use their fingers to enlarge the size of the ballot on the tablet screen, or they can click a button to have the ballot read to them aloud. Once voters mark the ballots on the iPads, they print the ballots on a portable HP printer.

"I watched one woman who never used a computer before, and she loved using the iPad."

Kate Brown, Oregon Secretary of State

During the pilot test, election officials visited assisted living facilities and gave people the option of voting with mail-in ballots or with the tablets and printers. "I watched one woman who never used a computer before, and she loved using the iPad. It was so exciting for her, and she said she did not want to use the paper ballot after that," says Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown.

The Oregon Secretary of State office has 60 iPads, and officials plan to purchase Android and Windows tablets for each county before Election Day. The state uses device-agnostic voting software that can run on any operating system.

This fall, the state also plans to allow people with disabilities to vote from their home PCs and to permit military and overseas voters to retrieve their ballots online, says Stephen Trout, Oregon's director of elections.

Historically, military and overseas voters receive their ballots by mail and either mail or fax them to county clerks. This fall, registered voters have the option of returning them electronically. Their county clerk will e-mail voters a secure link to a website where they can view, mark and print their ballots. If they wish, they can scan the printed ballot and return it via e-mail, Trout says.

The goal is to increase accessibility, Brown says. "It was designed for tablets initially, but we want to make voting as accessible as possible for every eligible voter."

Read more about technology and the 2012 elections.

<p>Toni Greaves/Getty Images</p>

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