Help America Vote Act
Restoring the U.S. Election Process
The presidential election of 2000 was among the most controversial in American history because of inaccuracy in ballot-counting technology of that time. The traditional paper ballots and vote-counting machines had to be replaced. Problems such as under-voting (when a machine fails to count a ballot) had to be fixed. The new machines would have to avoid the problems with punch-card ballots, including irregular nips, folds, or tears on a ballot, called "hanging chads."
The final outcome of the 2000 election was delayed about a week, leaving American voters in limbo regarding who would be the next president. In particular, the final vote count in the State of Florida was undetermined. Finally the Florida Supreme Court ruled that George W. Bush had the most electoral votes and would be the countryís 43rd president, even though Vice-President Al Gore had the most popular votes.
In order to restore integrity to the American voting process, election machines would have to be re-designed. Since then, the old punch cards and lever-operated machines are being replaced by new electronic touch screen machines and optical scanning devices. Also various assistive technologies were added. Thus, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) was passed. There are several manufacturers of the new election machines, but each precinct must provide HAVA compliant equipment. Each state is responsible for purchasing its own machines.
Accessibility features include one or more of the following:
- placing machines on a stand for seated voters to reach
- touch screens with a zoom and contrast features (replacing the hand-held stylus) for voters with limited manual dexterity and/or impaired vision
- multiple language translations for voters with language barriers
- keypads embossed with Braille for voters with blindness
- puff-sip interface, as well as a voice-activated ballot features for voters who donít have use of hands
A voter using a wheelchair must at least be able to get inside the polling place! Polling places must be wheelchair accessible. Now in the 21st century, there is no excuse for inaccessibility. If you find you can not get into your local poling place because itís on too steep of an incline, or because it has a revolving door, or any other barrier, contact your local government immediately to request the polling place moved. Itís especially helpful prior to an election so you can call your alderman or state representative well in advance. Every vote counts!
Note: In many cases itís actually easier for an elderly person or a person with a disability to vote by affidavit votingóvoter is assisted by a person of his or her choice. An affidavit must be completed by the voter, as well as by the person assisting, but this just means signing a form. If a person is unable to reach a polling place, he or she may call the election commission in the area and request an absentee ballot to be mailed in advance of the election.