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Idaho County Elections: Making it more convenient

Personal touch to assist local voters with disabilities

Election 2016

Credit: Free Press graphic
Election 2016

— Voters have challenging decisions ahead of them in the upcoming Nov. 8 general election, but for some the difficulties will not be at the ballot box but in just getting there.

However, for persons with disabilities in Idaho County, many options are readily available – whether at home, at the courthouse or the polling place — to assist voters in getting their ballots cast.

“We want people to vote, and we want to make it convenient for people to vote,” said Jessie Adams, Idaho County elections clerk.

While local numbers are unavailable, the Pew Research Center reports Americans with disabilities are less likely to vote – 80 percent reporting they are registered to cast a ballot, compared with 84 percent of those without a disability. In the 2014 midterm election, 58 percent of disabled Americans voted, versus 63 percent without disabilities. Disabled seniors (65 and older) are less likely to vote: 69 percent reported voting in 2014 versus 86 percent of seniors without a disability. Two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans who are not disabled voted in person in 2014 versus six-in-10 (60 percent) with disabilities.

So what are the options available to Idaho County voters with disabilities?

Adams explained, each polling place in every precinct has an ES&S AutoMARK voting machine to assist those with sight or hearing problems; these are located at a separate table, with privacy cover and headphones. When the special ballot is inserted, the machine will read each decision item, and will also display that information in oversized type. For verification, after a choice is made, the machine will read back that decision prior to it being confirmed.

“They’re always there,” she said of the machines, “but honestly, they’re hardly every used.” For one reason, Adams continued, “A lot people like the person-to-person help.”

Some voters may have difficulty in leaving their vehicle, so both poll workers at the precincts and at the courthouse are trained to conduct curbside voting; ballots, polling book, “everything we need, and we take it out to them,” Adams said. Voters can be assisted on what is on the ballot, confirm the choices they’ve made, and those completed ballots are taken in and placed within the balloting box.

“A lot of people really appreciate it,” Adams said, on the curbside voting service. “Some people think they can’t vote because they can’t physically come in,” she continued, so the election office stresses there are options such as this to assist voters, as well as absentee ballots, “because a lot of people don’t want to come out of their home.”

Absentee ballots are an option open to anyone, she said, which besides by those with disabilities is also taken advantage of by those who will be traveling out of the area for extended periods or just prefer to “argue over it with their spouse across the kitchen table.”

However, this close to the election, voters have until this Friday, Oct. 28, to request an absentee ballot by mail. After this date, absentee balloting must be done at the courthouse in Grangeville, which will be conducted through Nov. 4.

To vote absentee, the election office needs a written request with a signature – to compare with that scanned into the state voting system, “so we can make sure it’s you,” Adams said – that can be sent by mail, e-mail or fax. Absentee ballot applications are also available on the county’s website: . Voters can also arrange this at the start of the year, specifying any or all elections for that season they would desire to receive a mail-out ballot.

For the county elections office, Adams said they want residents to exercise their right to make decisions and not be dissuaded because they can’t physically make it to the ballot box.

“Call us, ask us questions. We want people to vote,” Adams said.

Questions, call 983-2751.


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