HAVA Problem Voting for Yourself November 7?

composition date: November 8, 2006

[reference note: the full text of HAVA - the Help Americans Vote Act of 2002 - can be found at: http://www.fec.gov/hava/law_ext.txt]

yesterday, tuesday, november 7, 2006, was election day, and for some of us it was the first opportunity to test the HAVA (Help Americans Vote Act) stipulation that in EVERY polling place there be at least ONE machine accessible to the blind and visually impaired, allowing us to vote autonomously, unaccompanied by sighted assistants or poll workers whom one cannot always trust to pull the correct lever (at least when you're voting for a fringe party - once in jersey city, a poll worker who was in the voting booth with me to select candidates argued with me for over 15 minutes when i told her that i was voting the green party for president and bullet voting for any other race in which a member of the socialist workers' party fielded a candidate... she insisted that there were only two parties from which to choose: democrat and republican)

i also am wary of relying on an absentee ballot to indicate for whom i am voting, as they obviously need to be filled out by someone else, but most of all because they are hardly ever even opened, especially when the margin of victory of one candidate is larger than the number of absentee ballots received, for counting them - according to state election boards - would be a waste of time, money, and resources - despite the fact that:

  1. every vote is supposed to count equally, no matter how cast; and

  2. voting for non-traditional slash third party candidates can help them qualify for public campaign funding during the next election cycle...

in the interest of letting the polling persons know that there are actually people out there who actually need and will use the adaptive interface, and to test new jersey's commitment to comply fully with HAVA this year, i made a special point of voting in person. no one at my designated polling place knew what i was talking about when i asked to use the accessible machine and it took a visit to municipal hall, conversations with the town clerk, the county elections board, and the state elections board requesting that someone contact my polling place to tell the poll workers there what the adaptive input-output interface looked like, where and how to hook it up, and how to turn it on and use it. 3 hours later, the adaptive input-ouput alternate keyboard was located and they finally succeeded in hooking the accessible, audio-output interface to the electronic voting machine (they're all electronic in NJ starting with this election), but - surprise! surprise! - it didn't work. not only could we not get it to produce any aural feedback whatsoever, its keypad was unresponsive (albeit brailled), so there was no way for me to cast my own vote unassisted...

luckily for me and other blind/VI jersey residents, NJ has implemented (or at least claims to have implemented) all of HAVA's 7 specific requirements, one of which explicitly states:

[source: http://www.state.nj.us/lps/elections/hava_vote-systems.html]

moreover, the official web site of the state of new jersey contains an excellent resource for accessibility issues and the polls in NJ, located at:

[http://www.state.nj.us/lps/elections/access_issues.html]

which includes a Voter Report Form for Polling Place Accessibility Concerns, which can be filled out online at:

[http://www.state.nj.us/lps/elections/voting_access_feedback_form.html]

if you, as a resident of new jersey encountered any difficulty with casting your own vote independently using equipment required by state and federal law, PLEASE let the state know by filling out the Polling Place Accessibility form, referenced above.

unfortunately, according to the State of New York's web site -- and confirmed by conversations with the New York State Board of Elections -- for those of you who live in the Empire State, new york has set itself a deadline of November 2007 for compliance with HAVA, so new york residents will have to wait until the next election cycle to autonomously, and accurately, cast one's vote.at any and all polling sites.

fortunately for those of you who live in the Nutmeg state, although connecticut missed its January 1, 2006 deadline for compliance with HAVA, an attorney at the Connecticut Secretary of State's office informed me that the state WAS in compliance for this november's election. this means that if you attempted to vote in connecticut yesterday, but there was either no accessible polling mechanism, a non-functional accessible voting machine, or anyone who had been trained on how to work the machine in its accessible mode, allowing you to vote privately and independently, you should complain to the voting registrar of the municipality or county in which you live, to tell them where and when you encountered problems, or you can call the state attorney general's office at: 1 860 509 6000

the state of connecticut's official HAVA compliance declaration can be found at:
[http://www.sots.ct.gov/ElectionsServices/HAVA/IntroHAVA.htm]

i hope this helps any of you who encountered problems casting your vote yesterday - i apologize for not getting this information out to the list BEFORE election day, but, after drafting this on november 8, it took five days of remorseless heckling to get the new jersey state elections IT persons to fix what had been -- since before election day -- the broken Voter Report Form for Polling Place Accessibility. (As of November 15, 2006, the form has finally been fixed and your feedback will get through.)

make your voice heard -- it's the only way they'll know we're out here!

Address any complaints, comments, suggestions, criticism, and/or hate email to Gregory J. Rosmaita

W3C Validated XHTML 1.0!      Keep the Web Accessible!      Hand-Constructed Using W3C Validated Cascading Style Sheets

This document was created November 8, 2006