Marin County, Calif.’s Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold was faced with a vexing problem. Since installing accessible ballot-marking devices in each precinct in 2006 in the Bay Area county, on average no more than seven disabled voters used the machines per election. The machines were there to make voting easier, but why weren’t voters using them? Ginnold had heard of no problems with the machines themselves and only anecdotally heard about voting preferences of some disabled voters. “We wondered why more voters weren’t using the accessible ballot marking machine at the polls, which are required by the Help America Vote Act [HAVA],” Ginnold said. “We wondered if we needed to do more outreach to encourage voters to use them. We also wondered if there could be accessibility issues we didn’t know about.”
So using more than $13,000 in HAVA funds, Ginnold’s office partnered with Elizabeth Bergman an assistant professor in political science at Cal State, East Bay to survey the county’s disabled voters to find out how they preferred to vote.
Ginnold said her office decided conducting the survey was important because it is a common assumption that voters with disabilities prefer to vote at the polls on accessible voting equipment.
“I think that academic surveys like this test common assumptions about voter behavior and lead to more informed and cost effective voter outreach efforts,” Ginnold said.
Full Article: electionlineWeekly.