Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Touch Screens Get Disabled Vote Only 3 Machines Available in Duval

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Touch Screens Get Disabled Vote Only 3 Machines Available in Duval

Article excerpt

Byline: Alliniece T. Andino, Times-Union staff writer

Using the metallic stylus in his mouth to make selections on a screen was easy for Kent Bell. After a few minutes, he had voted Nassau County-style on a touch-screen voting machine.

"You barely had to press on the screen for it to be activated," said Bell, who is a quadriplegic.

But Bell lives in Baldwin, in Duval County. In November, his precinct will be equipped with an optical scan voting machine that reads ballots marked with ovals or rectangles. Bell said putting a pen or pencil in his mouth to mark those shapes is so difficult he would need someone else to do it for him.

Vicki Peterson Cannon, Nassau County supervisor of elections, came to a center in Jacksonville yesterday to have some people with disabilities use the county's touch-screen voting machines and offer advice.

Those present appeared enamored with the equipment, which also has an audio feature for the blind and visually impaired. But some were concerned that while Nassau County offers the equipment in each precinct, Duval will only have three machines for use at the Supervisor of Elections Office.

Pamela Hodge, who is blind, disliked the idea of having to trek to the elections office downtown to cast her vote without assistance.

"I'm having to go farther," she said, "where other voters are not having to do that. It's segregation."

In November, three people with disabilities filed a lawsuit saying the optical scan machines keep them from casting a direct and secret vote. The defendants are the Duval County supervisor of elections, the state Division of Elections, the secretary of state and the Jacksonville City Council.

Duval County Supervisor of Elections John Stafford said the three touch-screen machines will be available weeks prior to Election Day and any votes cast from the machines would be considered absentee ballots. …

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