“One Machine, One Vote for Everyone”: Advances in Accessible Voting

  • June 21, 2013

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Over the course of our country’s existence, marginalized groups have given their tears, sweat and blood for the right to vote. Thanks to their efforts, more Americans have the right to vote than ever before. The question we should be asking now is, “Does everyone who has the right to vote have an equal opportunity to cast their ballot?” Researchers at Clemson University have created a technology called Prime III that gets us closer than ever to being able to answer that question with a confident “Yes.”

The image is centered on a hand touching a computer screen. The hand is curled into a fist except for the index finger, which is pointing at a computer screen with several rectangular boxes. Clemson University researchers demonstrate the features of the Prime III

Their Prime III technology represents a significant update to accessible voting systems. Instead of relying on several separate accessibility adaptations, the Prime III combines them all into one computer program.  As Juan Gilbert, the developer of Prime III explains, “It’s a universal design that makes it usable by as many people as possible, regardless of their age, ability or situation….you don’t have a disability machine, but one single voting machine.” Importantly, the Prime III also allows voters to keep their decision private. Instead of needing the voter to articulate their choice by name, the Prime III uses commands such as “next” and “vote” to maintain confidentiality. On the whole, the system allows for an independent voting experience. It removes the need for poll works to assist voters in casting their ballot, further increasing privacy.

The standardization of accessible voting technology is a huge step forward for allowing every person an equal opportunity to vote. When Clemson researchers presented the Prime III technology on Capitol Hill this week, Representative James Clyburn remarked, “Too many Americans face barriers to voting that simply should not be there…Whether it’s a disability, a language preference or the color of their skin, every eligible American should have unfettered access to the ballot box.”  With time and legislative approval, Prime III will help make unfettered access a reality.

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