By LISA CAPOBIANCO
People with disabilities now have a more user-friendly way of casting their vote in this year’s election.
The city of Bristol now has the “Inspire Ballot Marking System,” an accessible voter-verified paper ballot system that will be available to all registered voters who choose to use it on Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 8).
During the Commission for Persons with Disabilities meeting recently, Registrars of Voters Sharon Krawiecki and Kevin McCauley demonstrated how the new ballot system works.
Under the new system, voters will access to a laptop that provides two operation mode settings: a touch screen or an audio ballot. Once voters pick their operation mode of choice, the voting begins.
After selecting their district on the screen, voters choose their candidates of choice with their fingertip, and the touch-screen fills in each oval on the ballot.
The audio ballot gives step-by-step instructions, which voters can hear through a pair of headphones. This audio mode allows voters to cast their ballot through a touch pad instead of using the actual touch screen on the laptop.
Once voters are happy with their candidate choices, they can print the ballot before it is fed through the optical scanning machine. They also can review the ballot before submission.
Assistance with the new ballot system will be available at all polling places.
“The best thing about this system is that it’s going to print your choices on a real poll ballot,” said Krawiecki, later adding that the new system ensures that the voters do not make a mistake. “The other system we had was a fax machine, so it just printed on paper, and…you had a paper ballot different than everyone else. You voted by putting it into the auxiliary bin, where it was hand-counted at the end of the night.”
The ballot system is new not only to the city of Bristol, but also to all 169 municipalities statewide.
“The Justice Department changed the system that the State of Connecticut used. The State of Connecticut went to the Bond Commission and bought these machines for all registrars,” said Krawiecki.
People without disabilities also can use the new ballot system.
“Someone who has arthritis or dexterity issues would maybe want to use this,” said McCauley. “It’s not going to be restrictive.”
Through a “mock election” during the meeting, the commission and other community members had an opportunity to experience the new ballot system.
Commissioner Bob Smith said the new system provides more opportunities for those who need the most help during the voting process, adding how it tailors to a variety of needs.
“It really makes a huge difference,” said Smith, adding that he hopes knowledge of the new system will bring more voters to the polls.
The commission aims to “promote the integration and participation of persons with disabilities by creating economic, housing, political and social opportunities through community partnerships,” as its mission statement goes.
Commission Chairman Daniel Micari said he was excited to see the new ballot system, which he called “hands-on” and “easy to use.”
“It’s going to provide an opportunity for people who… [have] a visual or audio impairment to cast a ballot with fewer challenges, as they were faced with in the past,” said Micari, noting the great relationship that the commission has formed with the Registrars of Voters Office. “Any citizen who needs assistance with this device or in any other way with their voting can be helped.”