Oregon Pioneers Alternative Format Ballot for Disabled

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OakTree Digital has announced the delivery of an Alternative Format Ballot (HTML) to the Oregon Secretary of State's office (SOS) allowing persons with disabilities to vote in private.

The AFB has given me the ability to do something I've never been able to do in my 18 years of being a registered voter -- it has provided me the opportunity to mark my ballot privately and independently

OakTree Digital has announced the delivery of an Alternative Format Ballot product and process to the Oregon Secretary of State's office (SOS).

The Alternative Format Ballot (AFB) is designed to work alongside Oregon's vote by mail process to enable individuals with disabilities, including non-visual accessibility for the blind and visually impaired to vote in much the same manner as all Oregon Voters: independently and privately from home, or another place of the voters' choosing.

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 included provisions to ensure that voters with disabilities are provided the opportunity to vote privately and independently and have equal access to the process. The SOS office contracted with OakTree Digital to deliver a conversion application to convert election data from the Oregon Centralized Voter Registration (OCVR) system to W3C compliant HTML coding.

OakTree's AFB leverages W3C Accessibility Guidelines for HTML coding, a computer (with any required assistive technology, necessary for accessibility), a web browser and a printer to allow a person with a disability to access and mark a ballot, print a ballot and verify the ballot. A voter who is blind will be able to verify the printed ballot is marked correctly by using a scanner and screen reader. The AFB can, upon request, be sent directly to the voter who has the necessary technology at home to be able to complete the ballot.

"The AFB will allow people who, for whatever reason, are unable to mark a printed ballot to be able to vote privately and independently from the privacy of their own home if they have, or have access to, the required technology," says Gene Newton, Oregon's HAVA Program Officer. "The AFB moves vote by mail into the 21st century for voters with disabilities."

With OakTree's product, county election officials now have an easy-to-use conversion application that lets them create the AFB quickly and accurately. The conversion application uses the ballot definition data county election officials have entered into the Oregon Centralized Voter Registration system data fields to create an HTML accessible ballot. Thus, the AFB is created using the same basic data that is used to create the printed ballots that are mailed to all registered voters.

So far, end user feedback has validated the process: "The AFB has given me the ability to do something I've never been able to do in my 18 years of being a registered voter -- it has provided me the opportunity to mark my ballot privately and independently", says Angel Hale, a Salem business owner who has been completely unsighted since 1986.

"I can't even express how liberating and empowering it is to have this new voting tool at my fingertips and to be able to vote in the comfort of my own home, like the majority of Oregonians. As a person who is blind, I am grateful every day for the technologies that are available in order for me to be competitive in my work, and now those technologies are able to give me access to marking my ballot without assistance thanks to the AFB! I'm awaiting my AFB for the May election even now and look forward to participating in one of the most exciting times in Oregon's voting history!"

OakTree also provided a training module (on-line and in print) to train state-wide election officials on how to create the AFB including data import, ballot generation, ballot management, ballot distribution, and the preparation of ballot packages.

Learn more about the secrecy envelope instructions.

Oregon has once again proven its "pioneer" image by leading the nation in providing a 21st Century solution to accessibility to voting for people with disabilities in a vote by mail environment. More importantly, the solution ensures privacy and independence for many voters with disabilities.

For more information, contact OakTree Digital by email or call 503-517-3800.

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John Schmitt
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