Machines for voters with disabilities rarely used in county

Despite a technology that allows Clark County voters with disabilities to cast their ballots in secret, it appears most prefer to continue to vote by mail with the help of someone they trust.

As mandated by federal law, the Clark County Elections Department has a couple of machines available in its office that allow voters who are blind, seeing impaired, have limited upper body mobility, or who have reading difficulties, to vote without the help of another person.

In the Aug. 7 primary election, about 12 voters used these eSlate machines, Clark County Elections Supervisor Tim Likness said. And after a six-month campaign to raise awareness about the machines in 2008, just 25 voters used them in the 2008 general election, he said.

The machines probably get more use in areas where people cannot vote by mail, Likness said. Before voter assistance machines were mandated in those areas, another person would oftentimes accompany voters with disabilities in the voting booth.

But Washington state has used a vote-by-mail system for a while now. Washington voters with disabilities are accustomed to filling out their ballots at home with the help of another person, Likness said.

When people with disabilities can avoid the hassle of leaving the house to vote — and when they have faith in the person helping them vote from home — it makes sense that they would choose against using the eSlate machines at the elections office, Likness said.

For those who don’t have a trusted friend to help them vote, the eSlate machines are available for use between now and election day at the Clark County Elections Office, 1408 Franklin St. in Vancouver. More information about voting by eSlate is available in the general election voters’ pamphlet (Page 95), and by calling the elections department at 360-397-2345.

The machines allow voters to listen to their ballot and use a dial to scroll through their options while voting. Voters who lack upper body mobility, such as quadriplegics, can operate the eSlate by blowing into a device attached to the machine.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or or or

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