ASHLAND — The state Elections Division has linked the iPad to the voting system so that seniors or others with limited vision or hearing can enlarge the ballot on-screen or have it spoken to them aloud from the smart pad.
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown said Friday in a talk at Mountain Meadows Retirement Community that the new wrinkle in voting options is part of a broad effort to reach out electronically to voters who otherwise might be left out of the system.
The iPad app, available at www.oregon.everyonecounts.com, will be used in the Jan. 31 special election for the 1st District congressional seat and will be available elsewhere by the November election, said Brown. She added that the innovation comes on the centennial anniversary of women getting the vote in Oregon, eight years ahead of the U.S. constitutional amendment for suffrage.
So far, 89 voters have used the device in that special election, she adds.
"It's geared to voters with disabilities, like macular degeneration or limited vision," said Brown, in an interview. If needed, the smartpad can talk to the printer at the county elections office, where a voter-assistance team records it, she added.
"It works on a MacBook, Android or any other such platform. We're trying to make it as convenient as we can," said Brown, decrying the fact that Oregon has 600,000 eligible but unregistered voters.
The Secretary of State's office, which runs the Elections Division, will email a version of the ballot to military and overseas voters, who can either print and mail it or scan and email it, said Brown.
Brown demonstrated the iPad link to a crowd of 40 seniors, spreading her fingers apart on the touch screen to make the ballot jump from small type to giant type. Then she scrolled up and down with her fingers, seeking to overcome voiced complaints from a few seniors that they were far from tech-savvy.
Brown also responded to concerns about vote-by-mail fraud, noting Oregon has very little of it — only 50 complaints over 15 million ballots mailed.
She also warned of a "war on voting," including requirements for picture ID, which she said is intended to disenfranchise low-income people and minorities. One senior noted that when the elderly give up their driver's licenses, due to declining skills or judgment, they may no longer have a picture ID.
New computer technology, Brown said, also enables anyone to do online tracking of campaign contributions and expenditures on OreStar and to sort for factors such as out-of-state contributions. Oregon, she told them, allows contributions from anyone, anywhere, with no dollar limit. The site is https://secure.sos.state.or.us/orestar.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.