Maine’s Accessible Voting Solution
By Kathy Moore, Office of the Secretary of State
In 2002, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed in response to the flawed election in 2000 in which segments of the voting population were disenfranchised in part due to outdated and inefficient election processes and equipment. Among other items, HAVA specifies that all voters be able to vote privately and independently. Currently, this is not the case. Many voters with disabilities have needed to rely on others to both read the ballot and mark it for them. As of the upcoming election on November 7, 2006, this will no longer be necessary. Each polling place will be equipped with one Accessible Voting Solution (AVS).
Under the direction of Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn, Maine is in the midst of the statewide implementation of the AVS and is on track to have the system operational by Election Day. After soliciting input from representatives of the disability community and municipal clerks, the State selected the Inspire Vote-By-Phone system created by IVS LLC of Kentucky. This system has been used successfully in Oregon and most recently in the Oklahoma primary. It has also been selected by New Hampshire, Vermont, and Connecticut.
The system is simple in both design and implementation, consisting of centrally located computers, hosted by OIT at their secure data center, that function as election management and telephone voting servers. When a voter wishes to use the system to cast a ballot, the poll worker will dial a toll-free number, enter their secure ID and ballot number, and hand the phone to the voter. The voter will listen to an audio ballot and make their selections when prompted using the keypad on the telephone. After reviewing their choices and casting the ballot, the voter will hang up the phone. The central voting server will generate a printed ballot marked with the voter’s selections and fax it back to them. The voter will fold the ballot and put it into the ballot box with the other paper ballots.
The AVS team from the Office of the Secretary of State is working closely with Dave Rodrigue and Dawnna Pease, among others, from the Office of Information Technology. Without the technical expertise provided by them and their colleagues it would be impossible to accomplish so much in such a short period. As a result of this collaboration, November 7 will be the very first time that some Mainers will have the ability to cast a secret ballot, a right that many of us have always taken for granted.