Oregon, the first state in the United States to vote by mail, is pioneering another way for residents to participate in the democratic process.
Officials are reaching out to those people who might have a hard time getting to the voting booth, people with disabilities, and having them cast their ballots via iPad. The voting officials are going around to nursing homes, community centers, and anywhere else that they feel might house people with the desire to vote, without the ability.
The iPad is a good device for disabled people to use to vote, as they don't even have to pick up a pen. Voters can tap their choices via the touchscreen or even direct election officials to tap their choice for them. This helps out those voters that might have a physical disability or severe arthritis. For those with vision problems, the iPad voting software allows for adjustments to the font style and size, as well as the color of the screen.
According to the AP, "State elections officials say they'll use the same system in the special general election in January. And if the pilot project is successful, they'll make the service available across the state. They believe Oregon is the first state to try using iPads to mark ballots."
Officials are hoping the iPad voting program will eventually replace the other methods of helping disabled people vote. The computer equipment currently in use is getting old, and it's clunky.
Apparently, Apple donated 5 iPads to help with the program. If it proves successful, the state would need 72 of the devices (2 per county) to make it a statewide initiative. The voting software cost around $75,000 to develop. All of this together would put the total cost at around $110,000 - which is merely a fraction of what Oregon spent in the last two years on accessible voting tools ($325K).
It is important to note that the voting is not truly electronic. The votes are not being officially cast wirelessly via the iPad. The iPad allows the voters to make their pick, but an official ballot is printed and then mailed to the elections offices.
On Election Day, some voters in Oregon are voting to replace U.S. Representative David Wu, who resigned amid some strange circumstances back in July.
Tuesday's elections include two gubernatorial races, in Kentucky and Mississippi, as well as mayoral contests in big cities like Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix and San Francisco. Ballot initiatives are being decided on the issues of voter and collective bargaining rights as well as the issue of "personhood," a measure in Mississippi that would greatly influence abortion rights.
Can iPads be an effective tool in helping more people vote? The iPad is already being used in many school districts as an educational aid - and that seems to be a nice fit. Let us know what you think in the comments.