JUNEAU (AP) -- Disabled voters may enjoy more privacy at the polls, thanks to a new law.
House Bill 320, signed last week by Gov. Tony Knowles, requires that any new election equipment the state purchases include technology that allows those with disabilities, including the blind, to vote in secrecy.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Green, R-Anchorage, also allows the state to use electronic, instead of paper, ballots.
In the past voters with visual impairments had to take a sighted person with them into the voting booth to read the ballot.
New technology lets voters who can't see put on headphones and hear a voice read off the candidates' names. The machines can direct voters to push buttons for their choices and confirm the choices they've made.
The bill does not require the state to buy any new equipment immediately, and it provides no money to do so.
Janet Kowalski, director of the Division of Elections, said the state will use regular maintenance funds to purchase the new voting machines as old equipment breaks down.
The division has also asked the Legislature to pay for some new equipment and could receive money from the federal government.
Kowalski said she doesn't know yet whether any of that funding will materialize, or if any new machines will be in place by this fall's elections.
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