GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – The supervisor of elections for Clay County announced the roll-out of a new, “Enhanced Ballot,” which will provide those living with disabilities an easier method of filling out and mailing in a vote.
The software was created by a Jacksonville-based company, “Enhanced Voting,” which is now vending its products to 37 of Florida’s 67 counties as well as jurisdictions in nine other states, according to the company’s website.
The system was designed to be compatible with all accessibility devices -- such as screen readers, screen magnifiers and speech input software -- and allows voters to fill out their ballot on their home computer screen, print out their ballot document and send it into the SOE office to be counted.
Tony DePalma is the public policy director for Disability Rights Florida, the state’s official protection and advocacy system.
“We’re sending out pieces of paper to people and the forms they get aren’t written in Braille, don’t have elevated print,” DePalma said. “There’s a lot of ways that the forms themselves traditional vote by mail balloting isn’t accessible.”
DePalma said that the new system is a big step in the right direction but that counties should continue to provide greater accessibility to the ballot box.
“There are still ways that these systems could be made even more accessible,” DePalma said. “A lot of states are considering electronic ballot return where you know the ballot is received by a voter, they vote it using the assistive technology of their preference and then submitted electronically. So there’s still work to be done, but we’re happy to see that there are counties that are trying to get this right and understanding the importance of all of this.”
The Clay County SOE office is also using new auditing device that performs hyper-fast recounts of the entire balance of votes cast -- rather than just sampling a random percent under the previous plan.
“It will allow us to independently perform recounts and audits of the election outside of the tabulation system,” Clay County Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless said. “So it will verify, without a shadow of a doubt, the accuracy of the election.”
Clay County’s SOE will also do away with the mass pre-printing of ballots, opting instead to print them “on demand.”
The change will help preserve the high-demand bleached paper on which ballots are printed and only run off the ballots as needed.
“If you printed 160,000 ballots, one for every single voter, and there was only a 60% turnout, you’re talking about $60,000 in waste,” Chambless said.
Primary elections in Florida are set to take place on Aug. 23. Early voting begins eight days prior.