New voting method improves the process for blind voters

Voting with sample ballot.JPG
Posted at 5:29 PM, May 29, 2024

HELENA — The Lewis and Clark County Elections Office has recently adopted a new voting method for the blind community, creating a more equitable experience that helps keep people’s votes 100% secret.

The new method of voting allows blind voters the opportunity to vote in complete secrecy during primary elections. They used a sample ballot to test the system. That ballot will not be counted in Tuesday’s election. In the past, blind voters have not been able to choose their party in secrecy. This new method changes that, says Austin James, Director of Elections with the Montana Secretary of State’s Office.

“Montana has a constitutional right to privacy and a secret ballot. We take our constitutional rights very seriously. Secretary Jacobsen has instilled a culture of problem-solving base style and when we heard of this problem, we wanted to solve it,” says James.

In a partnership between Montana’s Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, the Secretary of State’s Office, and Lewis and Clark County, the county is the first in the state to implement this new voting method. Blind voters are now able to utilize audio technology, alphabetically ordered party ballots, and a controller to find their preferred party and vote for their chosen candidates in the primary election. Jacob Krissovich, Helena Chapter President of the National Federation of the Blind of Montana says this new system gives the same rights afforded to sighted folks to the visually impaired.

“As Americans, it's our constitutional right to be able to vote privately. So, we want equal access just like everybody else. And in today's world there's no, with technology, technological advancements there's no reason to not be able to vote fully independently and privately,” says Krissovich.

Krissovich says the hope is that this new system will be implemented throughout Montana.

“We're a pilot program here, and if things go out well here, then the goal would be to, in future primary elections, start rolling this out across the state so that all blind and visually impaired Montanans can cast their vote fully independently and privately from start to finish in primary elections,” says Krissovich.

Editor’s note: This pilot project is available at the Lewis and Clark County Elections Office.