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Fri, Nov. 22

New voting technology unveiled
Audio, video will help impaired in Mohave County cast ballots

Mohave County Elections Director Allen Tempert demonstrates the new voting equipment that will be available for handicapped people at the polls on election day. The screen can magnify for the visually impaired, and the headphones and keypad are there for the blind.

Mohave County Elections Director Allen Tempert demonstrates the new voting equipment that will be available for handicapped people at the polls on election day. The screen can magnify for the visually impaired, and the headphones and keypad are there for the blind.

KINGMAN - New voting technology in the county could make voting an easier process for every citizen.

"The majority of Mohave County voters will use standard paper ballots during the September primary election and the November general election," Mohave County Elections Director Allen Tempert said. "But new this year, handicapped people will be able to independently cast their votes at the polls on specially designed computers."

According to Tempert, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 required that the county provide the means necessary for handicapped people to vote without assistance by the 2006 elections.

"These new high-tech voting machines do exactly that. They can be touch-screen for most people, the screen can be magnified for the visually impaired, and an audio ballot is available through headphones for the blind who will then use a keypad to vote. The audio ballot can work with a visual screen or a blank screen to keep anyone from observing the voters' choices," Tempert said.

The touch-screen, as well as the audio ballot, are available in both English and Spanish and have detailed, step-by-step directions to assist the voter.

The equipment, Tempert said, is designed to allow any handicapped person the ability to vote independently at the polls. However, if anyone still would like to bring someone to assist him or her at the polls, that is just fine, he said. Poll workers will also be available for assistance if desired.

"We have been teaching this new process to our poll workers over the last several months," Tempert said. "By election day, I will have two poll workers at every site who will be able to completely understand these new computer-voting machines, including how to assemble them on the morning prior to the polls opening. These machines store the voting information for every voter in four places for backup security in case of a recount."

The system does allow people to change their minds prior to casting ballots, Tempert said, by simply backing up in the voting process.

He said the machine does not allow people to vote for too many candidates in any category and will also let them know if they missed a category or under-voted in a case where they are allowed to vote for more than candidate in a category.

"And, of course, that can be by choice in that one doesn't need to vote for a candidate in every category or for more than one candidate in a multiple-seat category, such as the two seats for our (state) House of Representatives candidates," he said.

He also assured everyone that the computer machines have many safeguards that protect voters against mistakes and protect the county from attempted voter fraud.

"These are really intelligent machines," he said. "I believe they will be well received by handicapped voters."

In addition to the machines, the county has made other improvements for the upcoming election, Tempert said.

Ramps, cones, handicapped parking signs and threshold covers have been installed at every precinct site that needed them, Tempert said. Also, staff has tested every site for handicapped accessibility.

This election will also take into account the Proposition 200 requirements that went into affect earlier this year.

"All voters must show identification at the polls," Tempert said. "Voters approved Proposition 200 in 2004. Proposition 200 requires all residents to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote and proper identification when they actually go to the polls to vote."

A voter has two different methods of identification to choose from when going to the polls. They can either show a photo ID, which includes name and address that matches the registration form. Or, voters can show two identifications that don't have a photo but include name and address matching voter registration. These documents can include utility bills dated within 90 days of the election, bank or credit union statements within the same time period, valid Arizona vehicle registrations, property tax statements, tribal identification and more.

Voters without proper identification at the polls can still vote on provisional ballots, Tempert said. The voters will then have three days to go to the County Elections Department to show acceptable identification for the vote to count.

"The main thing for voters is to make sure their identification addresses match their voter registration addresses," Tempert said. "If all of our residents will remember to show up at the polls with good identification, they will be in good shape to vote."

For more information, call the Mohave County Elections Department at 753-0733, ext. 2.

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