[OVC-discuss] Privately and independently -- how will OVC deal with this?

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Sat Jun 27 2009 - 13:17:20 CDT

I've thought about this a bit more, and I have arrived at a few conclusions.
Eventually, we will have to design an add-on device (or perhaps several
different devices) for accessibility. In thinking about the AutoCAST
feature ES&S claims to have developed for the AutoMARK, we could probably
make something that works with our system - maybe better than the AutoCAST.


Depending on the nature of the voter's disabilities, the device could plug
into, say, three USB ports: one for the barcode reader, one for the
mechanical paper handling device, and one for sip-and-puff input. A blind
quadriplegic could use it - so long as he or she could hear via headphones.
After review of the printed ballot, the voter could choose to cast or reject
the ballot. The ballot would then descend through one chute or the other,
into the ballot box or spoiled bin.

But this brings up the problem we have with the Holt bill. Who are we
designing this for?

Then again, the problem is not so much with the Holt bill, but the HAVA bill
itself. HAVA says the voter with disabilities needs to be able to vote
independently and with privacy. It's mentioned several times in HAVA. Here
is one example:

     . need to make voting equipment fully accessible for individuals
     with disabilities, including the blind and visually impaired, the
     need to ensure that such individuals can vote independently and
     with privacy,

This language is highly problematic. "Privacy" is not really a big problem.
We can pretty easily understand and define what's meant by that. The voter
should be able to indicate selections and cast the ballot without revealing
those selections to anyone else.

The big problem is what is meant by "independently." My opposition to Holt
is not because I don't care if people with disabilities can vote privately
and independently. It is because "independently" is poorly defined.

I believe that the litigation will be necessary to get this definition.
Strategically, we should get the litigation going right away. This could
freeze Holt until we get a better definition of "independently."

We need to know two things:

1) For whom are we designing the accessible device? For example, what if
our system works for a blind quadriplegic, but not a short and obese blind

2) What is meant by independently? For example, does it really mean the
voter will not need assistance reviewing and casting the ballot? If the
voter rejects the ballot, must the system allow restarting without

Here's an outline of what needs study:

We need to work up profiles of voters with a variety of disabilities and
combinations of disabilities. For the sake of argument, let's say we
develop 100 profiles such that all of the potential voters with disabilities
can be categorized in one of these profiles. Disabilities taken in to
consideration would include such things as dexterity, cognition, sight,
hearing, mobility, as well as unusual size and shape. These things could
even include allergies (maybe they have to wear a mask if they go out). For
example, profile 73 could be for a short and obese blind quadriplegic with
poor cognition (we may need a lot more than 100 profiles).

Then we need to collect data on people that fit these profiles. And we need
to get some answers about these people. One of the issues not dealt with in
HAVA is that people with disabilities tend to vote at home with whatever
assistance they need. Even if a machine would allow them to vote privately
and independently at the pollsite, they're just not going to use it anyway.
Informal studies show that practically no one uses existing accessible
voting machines.

- How many people fit this profile?
- If a pollsite voting machine that works for people in this category, what
percentage of them would go there and use it?
- Do people in this category tend to congregate? If so, where? (for
example, it might be that people in this category can't live in MN. they all
move to Ourtown FL. So, there is no point setting up a machine in MN that
meets this specific disability when they all live in FL).
- Can people in this category be best served with a portable voting machine
brought to their home?

Then we need to propose some thresholds. What if people in category 73 make
up .0002 percent of the population? Of these, say, only one in 50 would go
to the poll site to vote if a machine was there to accommodate them.

I don't have any specific numbers for thresholds, but some such numbers must
be used somewhere. Bottom line is that we need something that says
something like, "if there is a less than one in five chance that a voter in
this category will come to the pollsite on Election Day, then the accessible
voting machine does not need to accommodate voters in this category."

In other words, we need to define all the categories, figure out where they
live, and then figure out for each category the odds that the voters in this
category will go to the pollsite.

Until we have this information, we can't really know what's required to meet
the independence requirement. In addition, some other specifics will be
needed in the independence definition. For example, is it okay if the
system requires the voter to ask for assistance in order to print another
ballot in case the first printout is rejected?

So, the nature of the lawsuit might be that we demand that the government
provide this information. The HAVA accessibility requirement can't be
enforced without it.

Alan D.

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Received on Tue Jun 30 23:17:16 2009

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