Hawaii Votes EP. 3 – February 2022 – Voting Accessibility
Learn about the accessible options for the registration and voting process.
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Hello and welcome to the Hawaii Votes program, brought to you by the State of Hawaii Office of Elections. In this series, we cover all things voting and serve as your guide through the 2022 Election year.
We’re your hosts, Ray and Jaime, and today’s episode is all about voting accessibility. This episode is addressed to Hawaii’s disability community, to provide you information on the accessible voting options available to you.
Today, we’ll be discussing:
Receiving assistance in the registration and voting process
How to vote from home, and
How to vote at a voter service center
The Office of Elections is committed to ensuring that every eligible Hawaii resident is provided their right to participate in the elections. As we’ll cover later in this episode, there are a number of voting options available to ensure your right to a secret ballot and vote as independently as possible.
We understand that in some cases, you may need help in order to register to vote or cast your ballot. This brings us to topic number one: receiving assistance in the election process. Are voters allowed to receive assistance?
Yes, you are permitted to have someone assist you in the registration and voting process. This can be a friend, family member, caretaker; a person that you feel comfortable with.
However, in order to maintain the integrity of your vote, Hawaii election law prohibits receiving assistance from your employer, or an agent of your employer or union.
For our viewers who may be the caregivers providing this voting assistance, be mindful of the following:
Refrain from any coercive behavior
Remain nonpartisan, and
Do not mark a person’s ballot or direct a person in voting without the voter’s authorization
As a person providing assistance, it is important that you treat the election process with integrity.
When choosing the voting method that works best for you, consider the following question: Will you vote from home or will you vote at an in-person voting location? In the following segment, we’ll cover what you need to know if you choose to vote from home.
When voting from home, two voting methods are available. The first method is to vote on the mail ballot that is sent to you. As a registered voter, you are automatically sent a mail ballot every election. If you are able to vote independently on the mail ballot, or if you are unable to but have someone to assist you, this may be the best option.
To vote on a mail ballot, first carefully read the ballot instructions, then mark your choices with a blue or black pen. Again, if you have chosen to receive assistance, you are permitted to have help in marking your ballot selections. When you have finished voting and have reviewed your choices, insert the ballot into the ballot secrecy sleeve, then place the ballot secrecy sleeve into the provided ballot return envelope.
The ballot return envelope must be signed in order to be counted. If you are unable to sign, provide a marking in the signature field. For example, this can be a line or scribble, any marking will suffice. Then, have a witness provide their signature and contact information in the designated area. Lastly, place your ballot in the mail to return to your County Elections Division.
Your second option if voting from home, is to request to have an accessible electronic ballot sent to you by email. An electronic ballot allows you to independently mark your ballot using your personal compatible device. Electronic ballots also provide non-visual access to the ballot. If you are blind or low-vision, you can use a simple screen reader to have the ballot instructions and ballot choices read to you.
To receive an accessible electronic ballot, submit a Voter Registration Application or use the Online Voter Registration System to attest that you meet the qualifications and wish to receive an electronic ballot.
Here is how voting on an electronic ballot works. Using your own assistive technology device, mark the ballot to vote for candidates and ballot questions. When using a screen reader, the assistive voice will confirm the candidate name or ballot question you have chosen. If you make a mistake, the voice will describe the error, which you can easily fix. After you have filled out your ballot, you may use the ‘Check ballot for mistakes’ option. Next, print the ballot. Follow the included instructions to submit your ballot to your County Elections Division.
We’ll take a quick break and when we return, we’ll learn about how to vote at an in-person voting facility.
The question for this month’s Q&A segment comes from submissions to our general inbox, [email protected] This is a question we’ve received from numerous residents, so we hope to provide some clarity. The question is: How do I change my political party affiliation?
If you are interested in becoming a member of a specific party or changing your existing party membership, you will need to contact the party directly. Each qualified political party is responsible for managing its party membership in Hawaii. You can find a complete listing of party contacts on our website, elections.hawaii.gov, located under ‘Candidates’.
We do want to clarify that party membership is not required to participate in Hawaii’s elections. The Hawaii State Constitution prohibits requiring a voter to declare a party preference when registering to vote, therefore, Hawaii elections offices do not ask, nor keep record of your party affiliation.
Hawaii’s primary election is conducted as a “Single Party Primary” nomination process. When voting in the primary election, you must indicate your party preference or nonpartisanship directly on the ballot, then vote only for candidates within that selection. Your selection is not tied to your voter registration as ballots remain anonymous to protect the secrecy of the votes. On the General Election ballot, you can vote for any candidate in a contest regardless of party affiliation.
The alternative to voting from home is to visit a voter service center. A voter service center is an in-person voting facility managed by the County Elections Divisions.
If you require assistive technology, voting at a voter service center may be the option for you. Voter service centers are equipped with the Verity Touch Writer, which is an accessible ballot marking device. The Verity Touch Writer allows you to mark your ballot using a touchscreen, an accessible controller, or your own accessibility device.
The Verity Touch Writer has a number of accessibility-friendly features including easy wheelchair access, audio ballots, tactile navigation through the adaptive controller, and compatibility with adaptive tools such as sip-and-puff devices.
Here is how voting on the Verity Touch Writer works. Use either the touchscreen, or the ‘Move’ wheel and ‘Select’ button on the accessible controller. The tactile navigation unit has large controls that are easily identifiable through unique shapes, colors, and tactile edges. Additionally, the controls have Braille labels.
Audio is available to listen to instructions and ballot choices using headphones, and you may also adjust the display text size and contrast of the screen for better visibility. Once you’ve set your preferences, you may begin to vote using the touchscreen or accessible controller. When you have reached the end of your ballot, a review screen will appear to allow you to review your ballot choices. After reviewing and confirming your choices, print the ballot. Lastly, scan your ballot to cast your vote.
The County Elections Divisions will announce their voter service center locations by the end of May, so keep posted to our website elections.hawaii.gov as those announcements are made.
To recap, let’s run thru what we learned today:
#1: If you need assistance thru the registration & voting process, you may do so. Just remember, your employer or an agent of your employer or union cannot help you, & this is to maintain the integrity of the voting process. Be sure that you are comfortable with the assistance you are receiving.
#2: If you want to vote from home, you can either vote on the mail ballot that is automatically sent to you, or you can request an accessible electronic ballot, and
#3: You have the option of reporting to a voter service center to use the accessible ballot marking device.
Thank you for joining us today to learn about the accessible voting options available to Hawaii voters.
If you have any questions, please contact our office by email at [email protected], or by phone at 808-453-VOTE (8683). Accessible telecommunication is also available to our teletypewriter lines. Oahu voters can reach the TTY line at 808-453-6150, and Neighbor Islands can reach the TTY line at 1-800-345-5915. You may also contact our office for materials in accessible formats.
Be sure to follow us on social media at elections808, and visit our website for all things Hawaii elections. We’ll see you in the next one. Thanks!