The State of Oregon will be the first to allow some voters to cast their ballots using an iPad. In Tuesday’s special primary election to replace former U.S. Representative David Wu, who resigned this past July following a sex scandal, disabled voters in five counties will be able to cast their votes using iPads brought to them by county election workers.
The iPad is not being used to submit the vote — election workers will print the ballot from the iPad after the voter has tapped out his or her selections — but it is the first time that Apple’s digital device has played a prominent role in an election for national office.
Oregon election officials laud the iPad’s versatile abilities to adjust to a range of disabling conditions among voters. Those with poor vision can adjust the font size and colors of the ballot, or have text-to-speech capabilities read the candidates names to them. Those with limited mobility can use a “sip-and-puff” device to interact with the touch display.
As the AP reports, one voter with severe arthritis, Lewis Crews, finds voting with a touch device much easier than gripping a pen to complete a traditional paper ballot.
“Some people want to vote independently…others just want someone to help them, and that’s fine too,” said Steve Trout, state elections director.
Curt Decker, director of the National Disabilities Rights Network, added “People with disabilities should be able to vote independently and privately. That is our goal.”
Apple donated five iPads to Oregon for this test election, but the state still spent about $75,000 to develop the custom software that is required. Oregon would need at least 72 iPads, two per county, once the program is used statewide.
If all goes well Tuesday, state election officials are planning to use the same system in January’s special general election, eventually rolling the program out to all counties in the state.