Help America Vote Act of 2002 sure helped this morning for Illinois primary

I Voted Today stickerI’d researched the issues. I’d studied the candidates. It’s a primary election, not a general one. Voting this morning should have been a breeze.

And you know what? It was! I voted on my own in the Illinois primary election today!

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 mandated that voting systems provide some way for people to vote independently and privately (including those of us with disabilities), but if you read the post we published here Monday, you know there have been many, many elections since 2002 where that hasn’t been the case for me (and probably others).

I’d show up at the polling place, sign in, and stand there and listen to the poll workers scramble. “Where are the headphones?” “Anyone know how you make that computer talk? “How do you turn it on?” “Why isn’t there any sound?” “How’s it supposed to work?” They seemed to want to do right by me, but few of them knew what “right” was.

In the end, even after that Help America Vote Act was passed, my husband Mike (who can see) still had to sign an affidavit, guide me to a traditional voting booth, read the choices out loud and wait for me to tell him (and anyone else near enough to eavesdrop) who I wanted to vote for.

But not today. Mike had an errand to run, so I showed up at our precinct alone with Whitney, my Seeing Eye dog. Poll workers seemed sincerely happy to see us, they helped me fill out a paper form to register, and after I used a strait-edge to sign on the dotted line, one of the poll workers showed my Seeing Eye dog Whitney and me to a computer.

“You know how to work these?” she asked, placing a special handheld contraption the size of a cell phone in my hand. I nodded yes (I’d attended a special class free-of-charge earlier at the Chicago Public Library to be introduced to this technology) and put headphones on. Tactile buttons on the contraption allowed me to take my time, scroll through the ballot, mark my choices, and…abracadabra! I voted.

All. By. Myself.

A small thing for some, but huge for me. A lot is riding on today’s vote, and I felt privileged –and proud – to have a part in making these important decisions.

Now, bring on those presidential elections in November!

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