New voting machines equipped with Braille will allow vision-impaired Marylanders to vote without assistance this year, satisfying a federal court mandate.
Attorney General Brian Frosh joined officials from the National Federation for the Blind today to show how they worked, per the AP. Frosh stood by while Steve Booth, a member of the NFB, tried it out.
Each machine has a keypad with buttons containing Braille lettering. Voters can use them along with headphones to make their selections.
According to the NFB’s website, the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) has required every polling place to have at least one handicap-accessible voting machine available since it was passed in 2002. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also requires that states make accommodations to ensure disabled people receive treatment equal to that of non-impaired citizens.
Maryland was previously found to have violated the law for elections. The state argued it could meet the ADA’s requirement for voting by providing people at stations to physically make the picks for blind voters. A federal appeals court in February upheld a lower court ruling from 2014 that found the state at fault, and ruled Maryland needed to adopt an online tool to allow blind Marylanders to vote privately and independently. The machines unveiled today are the state’s fix.
The devices arrive just in time for early voting, which starts this Thursday, 12 days before Election Day on Nov. 8.
Ethan McLeod is an associate editor for Baltimore Fishbowl.
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