Milwaukee disability voting rights event demonstrates ExpressVote machine
To celebrate Disability Voting Rights Week, voters with disabilities and Milwaukee leaders gathered to speak about inclusivity and accessibility at polling places Monday.
Scott Luber is the vice chair at Independence First, where the event was held. Luber thanked Chief U.S. District Judge James Peterson for his recent ruling that allows disabled voters to receive assistance when returning absentee ballots.
"There were a number of elections recently that I did not vote in because I feared that I would be breaking the law by doing so, by having assistance in submitting my absentee ballot," Luber said.
In July, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that absentee ballot drop boxes would only be available at voting sites. Martha Chambers, a voting rights advocate at Disability Rights Wisconsin, said that more can be done to improve inclusivity.
"We have to be sure that policymakers focus on making polling places more accessible for poll workers to have training to assist those with disabilities, as well as being sure that accessible voting machines are available for those who need them," said Chambers.
The ExpressVote machine can read text to voters and includes accessibility features like increasing font size and changing the screen’s contrast. That helps people like Danita Jackson, who is visually impaired.
"It has the ability to read to me," she said. "I can do it privately. It's pretty easy to use and I don't have to ask for assistance, which is very important to me. I try to be as independent as possible."
The machine prints out ballots, which then go through normal voting machines. ExpressVote machines are available at all early voting sites and polling places on election day in Milwaukee.
Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director at the Milwaukee Elections Commission, said the machines are an improvement over the previous models used by the city.
And, Barbara Beckert, director of external advocacy at Disability Rights Wisconsin, said it’s helpful if non-disabled voters ask to use the voting machine "because then it reminds poll workers that this voting machine is available, and that it should be offered to everyone."
The City of Milwaukee Elections Commission encourages disabled voters to cast their ballots. People can ask questions about accessibility at polling places by calling 414-286-3491.
Wisconsin's midterm elections are Tuesday, November 8, 2022. If you have a question about voting or the races, submit it below.