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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Blind Voter's Accessibility Addendum

Yesterday Julie Deden and I voted at the Arapahoe Library Branch at South Glen using the new Universal Voting System (UVS) by Dominion that is in use now in 18 Colorado counties and will eventually be used in all 64 counties. I was reminded of a couple other problems with the system in terms of nonvisual access to Private, independent voting:, so we can add these to the list:


  • I got over-anxious once when I entered the vote and it read again the vote - such as Colorado House District Number xx. I hit the right arrow instead of the down-arrow to read the choices, and it took me into an options menu for text size. A left arrow took me back to the election announcement, and I was able from there to proceed with the vote. Not a big deal, and obviously, nothing told me to make that gesture, but then, nothing told me that anything would happen or would be possible if I did make that gesture.
  • When entering an election, say for U.S. Representative, the system does not announce how many choices you will have. This may not always be a problem, but if you get to an election in which you don't like any of the first choices, and want to see if there are any Independent or so-called third-party candidates, once you arrow past the last choice, you are immediately advanced to the next election. You can move back to that vote, but it's irritating because the system behaves differently if you have made a selection in a vote. Then, you must down-arrow twice to go to the next vote.

Review mode


  • When you enter the Review option at the end of your ballot, the system will tell you if their are "Warnings" for any of the items on the ballot, but won't tell you what they are. I intentionally undervoted one election, but since the system said the plural "warnings" I went back to check. After all, there were a lot of judges up for retention. But the system didn't take me back to the votes for which the "warnings" were issued, I had to go through the entire ballot with its 38 elections to check. When I went back to Review, it gave me the “There are warnings” message once again. Not helpful at all.
  • I couldn't print my ballot independently. It could be because the instructions in Review Mode are ambiguous. I tried to go to Voter Options, but nothing happened. I had to have the poll worker use the touch screen to do it, and I don't know if my votes were exposed at that point or not.

The Dominion system is going to be with us for a while in Colorado, but it clearly lacks top-notch software engineering, and since that’s really what Dominion is selling, we need to bring pressure on them and on the Secretary of State to bring this product up to standard, and fast!


So, armed with these few tips, go out and vote your conscience!


Friday, November 4, 2016

A Blind Voter's User Guide to Colorado's Less Accessible New Voting System

by Dan Burke

The 2016 election Is only four days away, and if you haven't voted already you may yet encounter Colorado's new Universal Voting System (UVS) being used in 18 of the 64 counties.  For some blind voters, the new system will mean a step backwards with respect to independent, private nonvisual accessibility required under the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA). This is because on December 31, 2015, Secretary of State Wayne Williams signed a contract with a single source provider of Colorado's UVS, the culmination of three years' work to establish one voting system for the entire state. Over the next couple of years, all 64 Colorado counties will go to this system.

The system, however, doesn't fully meet the HAVA standard.

How we got to this point in Colorado was the subject of a resolution at our convention last weekend, and will be the subject of another blog post. For now, let's get to the voting part.

The single provider is a  company called Dominion and uses an off-the-shelf Android tablet with its proprietary software installed. Now, whether you are an Apple user or Android user, we all have to agree that Android accessibility has improved greatly in the last couple of years. Dominion's design, however, overrides Android's accessibility features, so the touch screen is out as a possibility for voting nonvisually. This also means that if there's something that occurs the voter doesn't intend or, as happened to me the first time, doesn't understand, you will have to a Poll Judge to assist you. If they assist you, they will have to turn on the screen and thus your votes may be visible to others.

Not private. Not independent.

In the Denver Chapter, we had the Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane bring the machine to our October meeting, and I had a couple of chances, along with Chris Parsons, to test it out before that. So here are a couple of other things to be on the lookout for if your county is using the Dominion system this year:

  1. A blind voter cannot initiate his or her vote. That has to be done by a poll worker. Not independent.
  2. You won't touch the screen. Rather, don't touch the screen. The Android "Explore by Touch" feature is not working. To get anything on the screen to talk, you have to touch it straight on. Sliding around or flicking won't make it talk.
  3. You will navigate with a piece of hardware, either a joy stick or something like a game controller. The joy stick doesn't have a select putton, and the controller's layout is illogical - at least to me, so take your time and listen to the instructions.
  4. At least in Arapahoe County, two voices are used, one to announce certain things, like which election you are in, and another to announce the choice or candidate. The trouble is that the second voice is a lower tone and harder to hear. It may be very hard to hear in a noisy polling place. Arapahoe County personnel were going to try to find a solution, but they have over 50 of these machines, so finding it also means finding the time to update all of those machines. The ballots were mailed two days after our Chapter meeting.
  5. When voting with the joy stick, the motions are consistent and should be comfortable before long. That is, until you get to the end of the ballot, then the muscle memory you've developed has to be thrown out the window because the movements to choose things suddenly and inexplicably change. Don't be impatient like me, listen to the directions at the end as you finalize and prepare to print your vote! If you don't you can get into amaddening loop from which you can't seem to escape. Again, you're going to have to call a poll worker to bail you out, and they're going to have to turn the screen back on to take you to the end, once again exposing your vote. Not independent. Not private.

Of course, one of the obvious and important bits of advice any year, and especially this year, is to study the important issues in advance. There are a lot of ballot issues on a statewide basis, and a lot more in some voting jurisdictions.

And give yourself time to vote. It's going to be a long ballot whether you study or not, so try to carve out enough time to get through it without feeling rushed. This is especially true if you are going to find yourself using a new voting system.

Call your county clerk's office or check the clerk's web site to get info about voting centers near you. Remember, polling places are already open around the state and many will be open for a few hours on Saturday.

The local issues on your ballot are explained in a TABOR document mailed to registered voters by each county clerk. TABOR stands for the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights, and you can probably find a readable document (probably a PDF) on the county clerk's web site, too.

There are a number of ways to get info on statewide issues prior to going to the polling place. Here are some links that can help:

The Colorado Voters' Bluebook is published for every election by the Legislative Council. Accessible versions of the Bluebook in PDF or MP3 are offered by the Colorado Talking Book Library. The link leads to a page where you can read either format online.

And here's a link CTBL provided to download the entire MP3 version from DropBox.

You can also listen online to the League of Women Voters Ballot Issues publication.

Many statewide and local judges are on the ballot for retension or not. You can read about all of the 2016 Judicial Performance Evaluations that are going to be on your ballot.