Bill aims for better voting options for disabled

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Visually impaired voters could one day vote in private under a bill that passed the state House on Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Green, R-Anchorage, would require that any new voting equipment purchased include technology that allowed those with disabilities, such as the blind, to vote in secrecy.

The bill changes the current requirement that the state use paper ballots.

Currently, those who can't see sacrifice their right to cast a secret ballot because another person must read the ballot to them and mark their choices, Green said.

New electronic technology would allow voters who can't see to don a set of headphones, hear a voice read off candidates' names and push buttons for their choices.

Green said the measure won't cost extra money because the state isn't required to buy new equipment immediately.

Janet Kowalski, director of the Division of Elections, has said the state will use its regular maintenance funds to purchase the new voting machines as old equipment breaks down.

The state may also receive money from pending federal legislation. She expects a few machines could be in place by the November general election.

House Bill 320 passed the House unanimously. It now moves to the Senate.

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