New Oklahoma Voting System Aids The Blind

Wednesday, October 3rd 2012, 6:38 pm
By: Craig Day

Oklahomans who are blind will have an easier time casting their ballots in November's election.

This is the first campaign season Oklahoma is using new voting machines equipped with a system specifically for blind voters.

Students at the Oklahoma School for the Blind are taking part in a mock election.

A couple of things make it different.

First, it covers Oklahoma cultural questions.

But more importantly, the equipment makes it different.

The voting machines include what is called Audio Tactical Interface, or ATI.

"We can reach out to newly blinded people and others who just aren't aware of new technology and new devices that make life easier for them."

The ATI device, which is connected to voting machines, was used during the primary.

But November will be the first time it's used in a general election in Oklahoma.

"Voter turnout for the visually impaired will be greatly increased now in the state of Oklahoma because of this," precinct worker Stephen Kearney said.

Mostly because of privacy.

Previously, Oklahoma's blind voters had to rely on precinct workers or friends or family to read the ballot and cast their votes for them.

"That person had to fill out your ballot and then their own, and that was just a lengthy process," voter Jane Thomas said.

That will be different now.

The ATI system is pretty simple to operate.

Blind or visually impaired voters listen to a menu of ballot items.

By clicking a wheel, voters can hear the choices.

On keypad buttons with Braille underneath, they can make selections.

"You can go back and review and make changes before you cast a ballot," Kearney said.

Once complete, the ballot is cast by hitting another button.

The new equipment will be available in every precinct statewide.

"The opportunity to vote independently and privately," Thomas said.