All polling places are required to have at least one accessible voting machine for federal elections, but as communities across New Hampshire age, reliance on what’s known as “One4All” technology is expected to grow.
The number of people age 65 and older in New Hampshire is forecast to double in the next two decades, meaning large numbers of likely voters with vision challenges will need accessible voting technology.
Randy Pierce, president and chief executive of Future In Sight, formerly the New Hampshire Association for the Blind, said state officials are equired to offer poll workers training to use the One4All system, but it isn’t required that they take it. Pierce said he thinks that’s a disservice to the voters who need it.
“Until we make it run smooth and seamless,” he said, “that’s going to encourage some people not to go and subject themselves to that experience.”
Pierce said his organization has asked New Hampshire’s gubernatorial candidates to cast their ballots using the accessible system on Election Day, but no one has yet committed to the challenge.
More than 80% of people who are blind in the United States are unemployed at a time when high inflation is making it difficult to survive. Health care and access to transportation, especially in rural New Hampshire, also are issues that Pierce said motivate people who are visually impaired to vote. He said one way to help these voters is for others to use the One4All system themselves – to not only raise awareness, but to help the next voter in line who might need it.
“That means by the time the person who is sight challenged, who is already dealing with some challenges arrives – it’s working,” he said.
Future In Sight has created online tutorials for using the machines, and voters still have the option to ask a poll worker for help. Prior to 2002, most voters who were visually impaired were forced to do just that – and trust that person to mark their ballot as requested. The Help America Vote Act required that accessible voting machines be made available, ensuring everyone can vote privately and independently.
Accessible-voting tutorials Future in Sight 2022
New Hampshire demographic trends Carsey Institute, University of New Hampshire 2012
Unemployment data for people with disabilities U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2/24/2022
Poll-worker survey National Federation of the Blind 2022
This story was written by Kathryn Carley, a contributor to Public News Service, where this story first appeared.