Visually impaired voters also have machine issues

An AutoMARK machine which is used for visually impaired voters. (Nov. 8, 2016)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Nobody is saying anything is rigged, but there are problems that are means votes are being switched from one candidate to another.

Visually impaired voters rely on a machine called AutoMARK that reads their ballots and either provides audio presentation of the ballot or increases the size of the font allowing it to be more easily read.

It’s a system that allows Michigan’s estimated 140,000 blind and visually impaired to take part in the most fundamental acts of Democracy.

Grand Rapids residents Cassaundra Bell and Jon Cauchi were looking to do just that when they showed up at their polling places in the Burton Street and Breton Avenue.

But when they showed up the voting machines jammed — they had to remark their ballots multiple times.

The result was the candidates they picked were switched — opposite parties for Bell’s presidential picks and changed the rest of the ballot for Cauchi.

“If you have no sight, and there’s a jam, how do you know?” Couchi was asked and he said “You don’t.  The only way you’d be able to tell is if somebody had to come over and get the paper out of the machine.”

They say they have heard from other visually impaired people that they have experienced similar problems.

Christine Morris of the Disability Advocates of Kent County says that the machines are antiquated and there is a need for better training of staff. She said the state is aware of problems but they are not planning to make changes to the system until the 2018 election — too late for Bell and Cauchi.

“We want to be able to vote independently and securely and privately like everyone else,” Bell said.

Bell and Cauchi say they are lucky that they still had some vision which allowed them to see there were problems.

Those with more severe impairment might never know that their votes have been discarded or changed.



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