Access for Voters with Disabilities
Everyone who has the right to vote should be able to do so, but it's not always that easy. Setting aside issues like discrimination, disabilities can make it very difficult for some voters to make it out to polling places and cast their ballots. Old lever-based voting machines were difficult for some with physical disabilities to operate. Punch card machines and scanned paper ballots aren't optimal choices for blind voters. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 aimed to replace older voting technologies and ensure accessibility for all Americans. Polling places must offer equal opportunities to the disabled, including the ability to vote independently.
That doesn't mean all voting systems have to be accessible for the blind or physically impaired -- polling places just need at least one machine designed to make voting accessible. Some DRE machines offer keypads and audio guides to allow blind voters to cast their ballots. Other systems offer large buttons that voters with dexterity issues can interact with. But there are still issues to overcome, just as there are with vote security. Even machines that verify votes with paper ballots remain inaccessible to the blind.
In 2011, the Election Assistance Commission began funding a program to design a universal voting machine accessible to anyone [source: Disabled World]. Using a single type of machine will make it easier for polling places to train staff, instruct voters and carry out maintenance.
Now it's time to switch gears a bit: How do voting systems work when you don't use a voting machine at all?