A voting machine developed at the University of Florida helped voters with different disabilities to cast their ballots in this month’s elections. Prime III, or the Premier Third Generation Voting System, was used statewide in New Hampshire — the first state to certify use of the machine — on Election Day. … With Prime III, a blind person, for example, votes by putting on headphones, and following audio prompts for the various races, they vocalize their choices. Someone without arms or someone who otherwise can’t write does the same. Juan Gilbert, chair of UF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Department, came up with the idea for the voting technology after Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002. The act required every voting precinct to have one voting machine for people with disabilities. But Gilbert saw the new legislation and didn’t think of it as the best solution. “We saw that, and we thought that could be a problem because you’re creating a separate-but-equal connotation in voting. And we were right.”
He said he then got to work on Prime III and has been developing the technology for almost a decade. Along with its audio capabilities, it’s touch-screen enabled and includes written instructions prior to voting for a deaf person, for example, who can’t receive them verbally from a poll worker.
“Our purpose was to create one machine, universally designed that everyone can vote on independent of your ability or disability,” Gilbert said.
His next step is to get Prime III certified in California, and after that, he plans to target nationwide implementation.