Re: A question about paper ballots and ADA compliance

From: Teresa Hommel <tahommel_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Sat Jul 02 2005 - 10:09:53 CDT

After a long wait I got a set of materials from the secretary of state of RI, and have been taking it to every meeting I go to, to show it to people. Very few people have seen the tactile ballot or read the excellent script.

I live in NYC, and if anyone is near or in NYC you can stop by and look at it. I will try to post the sample script, as soon as I get a chance, and will email to let you know it is posted.

The ballot to be voted is the same as every other paper ballot. To enable the blind person to feel where the proper place is to make a pen-mark for the desired candidate, the ballot to be voted is sandwiched between two other tactile-prepared-guide-ballots which have raised glued-on dots and lines, and cut-out holes.

Thus there are a total of three ballots, the top and bottom ones with dots lines and holes making up the "sheath" that Jim describes, which can be reused by multiple blind voters, and the middle one is the ballot to be voted. For each blind voter, the poll worker just puts their ballot to be voted inside the sandwich sheath.

The raised parts guide the blind person to know where the races are and where the candidates names are, and the cut-out holes act as a template for the voter's marker-pen to make marks exactly where needed next to the desired candidates names.

When the front of the ballot is facing the voter and is right-side-up, the sandwich is held together with a clip on the top left and the top right has a corner cut, like the old computer punched cards. Thus the blind voter can detect the top and bottom of the sandwich and the right and left, and the front and back. If the back of the ballot is facing the voter, the clip is on the right and the corner cut is on the left.

The audible cassette tape first gives the voter a tour of the ballot, describing how to find the top and bottom, front and back of the ballot. Each column on the ballot has raised dots on top, one dot for the first column, two dots for the second column, etc. These dots are rubber round glue-on things, like what you buy for a toilet-seat bumper to keep the toilet-seat lid from scratching the seat.

Once the voter finds the columns, the tape describes the races in each column, giving the office sought and the names and parties of the candidates for each race. Each candidate is marked with a raised line, and this line is as Jim describes, made out of plastic material squeezed out of a tube and left to dry as a ridge, like a line of toothpaste except not that high. The line for each candidate is right next to the cut-out hole where the voter will swipe the marker-pen to mark the ballot to vote for that candidate.

The races are separated on the ballot by about an inch of blank paper, so it is easy for the voter to feel the gap between races, and where each race starts and ends.

Once the voter has touched and listened to the ballot layout -- top/bottom, front/back, columns, races per column, candidates per race -- the tape invites the voter to begin voting when they are ready. They can stop and rewind the tape at any time and go back to hearing the ballot layout. When they start to vote, the tape guides them through the ballot, reciting each race and its candidates, one at a time.

To make their pen-mark on the ballot for their desired candidate, the voter feels the raised line for that candiate and the cut-out-hole just next to the raised line, and swipes the marker pen across the cut-out hole, which is a perfect template for marking the ballot underneath.

The sample tactile ballots I got were so sturdy, simple, and perfectly cut, that they have been shown to hundreds of people and the sandwich taken apart and put together hundreds of time, and they work perfectly.

Teresa Hommel

-----Original Message-----
From: Jim March <>
Sent: Jul 2, 2005 12:36 AM
To: Open Voting Consortium discussion list <>
Subject: Re: [OVC-discuss] A question about paper ballots and ADA compliance

Ed Kennedy wrote:

> Hello Jim:
> I didn't quite follow what you said about glue and audio tracks for
> independent voting by the blind. Could you expand on that a little?


What Rhode Island did was take a standard paper ballot and build a thin
cardboard "sheath" for it that locked the ballot in tight.

Strips of glue were positioned just above each hole in the "sheath"
where a mark could be made. These formed "raised bumps"...half inch
long or so, 3/16ths wide, about 3/16ths tall. Very easy to "feel for".
They can also be color-coded (more on that in a sec). The one I saw
used what appeared to be short beads of silicon sealer left to dry, very
well stuck to the "sheath" and very easy to feel.

Different audio tracks were made up for blind voters in different
languages and and different languages for sighted people.

The blind audio track in English (in an ordinary cassette player with
headphones) would go something like:

OK, first you're going to pick the president. Find the first horizontal
row of bumps. The first bump in that row is right above the mark for
Kerry. Swipe that to vote for him. The next bump is for Bush. Swipe
just below that for him.

The next horizontal row of bumps is for congressional reps. The first
bump there...

...and so on.  If you're dealing with a sighted person who is 
illiterate, they can get a cassette tape that refers to color-codes of 
glue strip versus bumps by row and column, or they can follow the same 
"bump location directions" that a blind person uses and you use just one 
color of glue strip on the sheath.
Either way, people are swiping across a hole in the sheath that conforms 
to ballot mark locations on the underlying paper ballot.  (Blind voters 
are shown where the "swipe holes" are in relation to the bumps ahead of 
time, either by the audio track instructions or by a pollworker before 
they actually start marking.
Once you pull the finished paper ballot out of the "sheath" it looks 
like any other hand-marked paper ballot and can be scanned, hand 
counted, whatever.
It's a completely accessible low-tech solution.
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Received on Sun Jul 31 23:17:11 2005

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