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Officials demonstrate new voting equipment for disabled community

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) - We're less than a month away from the midterm election, and state officials have been working hard to make sure everyone can easily vote in November, including those with disabilities.

Before this new machine, the disabled community said voting was too hard because the equipment was too difficult to use. Now all they have to do is insert their card, click the buttons, and follow the prompts on the screen.

“Everybody in this country has a right to vote and they have a right to vote in private,” said Scott Norris, the adaptive technology librarian at the Braille and Talking Book Library in Lansing.

Before the new Voter Assistance Terminal (VAT) became available, Norris, a legally blind Michigan voter, says his experience casting his ballot wasn't fair because of having to bring someone along for help.   

“I was voting in a crowd, so there was no independence and no privacy,” said Norris.

But the new machine includes handheld devices and headphones to guide disabled voters along.

“We have one of these in every polling location throughout the state,” said Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope.

Swope says he along with other officials are working to ensure the problems at the polls don't happen again.

“We're doing everything that we can to make sure that you have a way to independently mark your ballots no matter what voting method you use,” said Swope.

Bill Robinson, the Director of the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons, says he's had voting issues in the past, too.

“It's important to be able to do that without somebody looking over your shoulder, or having other people help you with that ballot,” said Robinson.

But both Robinson and Norris want disabled voters to know even if their prior experience at the polls wasn't easy, they say that shouldn't stop them from heading out on Election Day to exercise their rights.

“People with disabilities should participate in the democratic process just like any other person in the country,” said Norris.


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