Havre Daily News
Hill County Clerk and Recorder Diane Mellem, who serves as the county's election administrator, said that when she first heard about the new ballot-marking machines to aid residents with special needs, she thought she was in for a horrible process of training and using the computers. But, at a Wednesday night training meeting on the machines, which comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Mellem said the computers are very easy to use.
“They are definitely useful and wonderful for the purpose in which they are needed,” she said.
The new ballot-marking terminals, which will be used for primary elections on June 6, are designed for use by voters who would find it difficult or impossible to vote using old techniques. The machines provide a touch screen and puff-tube for those who are not able to use the touch screen, audio directions and a zoom feature for those with impaired vision.
Mellem said the machines are perfect for her mother, who has vision problems and arthritis that makes her unable to grip a pen.
“She loves her magnifying glass and this machine does the same thing for her,” she said.
Mellem said the machines allow people to have more independence.
“Those with needs are able to do it all by themselves,” she said.
For write-in candidates, the machine prints the name on the ballot. Williams said the machines will not mark anything on the ballot without a user's input. Voters can review their choices before submitting the final vote.
Chief election judge LeRoy Keller, 72, who lives north of Havre, said the training session was the first time he had seen the machines. Initially he was a little apprehensive, but he quickly became comfortable with the equipment.
“The machine was easy to use once I got used to it,” Keller said.
The computer only marks ballots, it does not store any information from the voter. Mellem said that because the screen is easier to read, a privacy screen will be put around the voter.
The ADA standards also require polling facilities to meet the needs of the disabled, including wide doorways, designated parking and bathrooms with suitable handicapped-accessible stalls.
Hill County has nine terminals, one at each of the new polling locations, and a few backups. The machines' manufacturers are ES&S and AutoMARK.
The cost of the new equipment and the first year's operation costs will be covered by the Montana Secretary of State's office, Mellem said. Annual maintenance and operation costs will be paid by the county.