The Associated Press reports that Apple has donated five iPads to the state of Oregon in support of a pilot program to help disabled voters more easily fill out their election ballots. Combined with a $75,000 investment by the state for software development, the iPads allow voters to adjust font size and screen colors to help them read the ballots, among other accessibility improvements made possible by a shift to digital technology.
Voters with poor vision can adjust the font size and screen colors, or they can have the iPad read them the candidates' names and even the voter pamphlet. A voter with limited mobility could attach a "sip-and-puff" device to control the screen. Lewis Crews, 75, who has severe arthritis, didn't have to hold a pen to fill out his ballot.
"It's a lot simpler for me. I think it's a great setup they got," Crews told The Associated Press last week in a phone interview after he filled out and printed one of the first-ever iPad ballots.
Elections officials helped Crews operate the iPad, he said, "but now that I've seen how it works I'm confident I can do it on my own."
Rather than filing votes electronically, the iPads are connected to portable printers, which print out the completed ballots for signing and mailing. Since the passage of a 1998 measure, all Oregon elections have utilized vote-by-mail as the primary mechanism for submitting ballots, allowing the iPad-generated ballots to be easily integrated into the existing system.
Oregon election officials believe that a full-scale program would require a total of 72 iPads to offer two devices per county. At a total cost of $36,000 for the 72 devices, the program would compare favorably to the state's current $325,000 yearly budget for maintaining voting tools accessible to the disabled.