Opening new doors

New machines allow people with disabilities to vote more easily

For her entire adult life, Evelyn Tileston has relied on others to cast her ballot.

Her husband, Gordon, votes for her, but once, when Evelyn and Gordon didn't agree on a ballot item, she had someone else vote for her.

Evelyn was born partially blind, and she has never been able to vote independently, Gordon said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Evelyn got to test Moffat County's new voting machines, which have an option for users to listen to audio prompts.

"I'm feeling like kid in a candy store, with a pocketful of money," Evelyn said. "I'm thrilled to be able to actually cast my own vote."

Evelyn is the director of the Independent Life Center in Craig, which helps people with disabilities in Northwest Colorado. She said she wanted to test the equipment not just for herself, but also for the sake of the people she works with.

Election official Lila Herod oversaw Wednesday's Public Logic and Accuracy Test at the Moffat County Courthouse. Herod, Evelyn and two others tested 58 separate ballots with the new equipment.

Herod invited Evelyn to test the new voting machine's handicap abilities.

Evelyn said she was nervous to be the one testing the new equipment.

"If it doesn't work, I'm going to be very disappointed," she said.

Herod said the new machines will be useful for people with visual and reading disabilities.

Mason Siedschlaw, information technology coordinator for Moffat County, helped set up the new machines.

"The company (that made the machines) sent a trainer to teach us how to use them," Siedschlaw said. "Without that, it would be a challenge."

He added that the most difficult part of setting up the machines was pre-election testing.

Setting up the machines was difficult, but Siedschlaw said they are easy to use.

"The disabled access units are set up for the visual impaired," he said. "Audio reads back the prompts, and there is braille on the buttons."

He said a challenge involved with learning about the new machines is remembering that they aren't touchscreens.

"Some people might be hesitant because they are electric," Siedschlaw said, "but I like them, and I think they will go over very well."

Herod said the new machines also will allow election judges to tally votes at voting centers at the end of the night instead of sending ballots to be counted elsewhere.

Four of the machines will be at the Centennial Mall, which is Craig's voting center.

The new machines can be used by anyone, but paper ballots are still available, Herod said.

"I'm predicting the majority of voters will still use paper ballots," she said.

After testing the new machine, Tileston said she liked the experience.

She said there were a couple of bugs that needed to be worked out, mostly that election judges would need to give specific instructions to voters.

Tileston said she was happy to use the equipment and that she was confident that it would be successful.

"The point is," Tileston said, "this is an American right."

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