Blind Michigan voters use electronic absentee ballots for first time

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Voting method usually reserved for people overseas.

Blind voters and advocates celebrated this week after Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson was forced to allow the use of electronic absentee voting normally reserved for men and women overseas.

The technology allowed many blind voters to cast their ballots independent of help for the first time.

The process is simple. The ballot appears on the screen and a person who is blind can have it read to them like any other text through a text-to-speech program. It can also be run through a braille system for the deaf-blind. After a ballot is filled out it’s print, sign and send.

Michael Powell, with the Michigan chapter of the National Federation for the Blind, is one of the men suing the state for wider use of the electronic system on behalf of blind voters.

“Why should they risk going to a polling location and, and especially if they go to one and they find they can’t use it because the people don’t know how to use the machine or if there’s some kind of issue, and they’ve risked their lives for nothing,” Powell said.

Powell added it’s not just about ease but also independence for those who are often overlooked.

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