TALLADEGA – September 20, 2018
– Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill announced this morning a new
initiative by his office to help Alabama voters with visual impairments have
better experiences participating in state elections.
Speaking in the auditorium at the Alabama School for the Blind, Secretary Merrill told ASB staff and students that Alabama voter guides would now be available in Braille. Also, he said election officials have been better trained in the use of the AutoMARK voting machine, which helps voters with visual impairments read and mark their ballot. Secretary Merrill was joined onstage by the 17th president of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, Dr. John Mascia, as well as Clay Helms, the elections director in the Secretary of State’s office. ASB students, representatives of national advocacy groups for the blind, and local elected officials were also guests at the event.
“Our goal of making it ‘easy to vote and hard to cheat’ applies to each and every Alabamian – including those who have physical challenges or disabilities,” Secretary Merrill said. “To ensure we accomplished meeting the needs of these constituents in the most effective manner possible, I asked my team to host a meeting with the state’s many advocacy groups for the blind and visually impaired. During this meeting, the representatives of these groups suggested several changes that could be made to dramatically improve the ability of voters with visual impairments to participate in the electoral process.”
The meeting with advocacy group representatives happened earlier this year, and the idea for the new election material began as a result of that partnership. “We appreciate these groups working with us to be part of a solution, especially for providing the materials to the state free of charge,” Secretary Merrill said. “They are uniquely positioned to understand this issue and help us solve it, and that’s why we wanted to sit down and listen to their ideas. This is a great example of how government agencies and private groups can work together, and we want to thank them for their help and support. “ Secretary Merrill urged anyone who had issues with voting due to physical impairment to call their local probate judge’s office or the Secretary of State’s office at (334) 242-7200.
The National Federation of the Blind is very happy to be a part of this great news, and we're honored to be here at the Alabama School for the Blind for the announcement.
The National Federation of the Blind of Alabama would like to thank Alabama Secretary of State, John H. Merrill, and his office for insuring that every individual in Alabama has a level playing field at our polling sites throughout our state. Independence is very important to our blind community, as it is for everyone.
The National Federation of the Blind strives to maintain every facet of independence humanly possible. The accessible voting machine Is one more step in that direction. When we are able to choose a candidate we would like to see in a political position, or confidently vote on issues that we’d like to see become law, and make those decisions privately and independently, we know we are moving in the right direction.
Making sure these machines are present, working adequately, and having trained poll workers are ways to create a user friendly environment for the blind and other disabled citizens.
Again thanks for promoting inclusion on every level.