Jun 23, 2022 - News

Disabled Utah voters are asking the state for e-voting

A man holds a probing cane and a phone camera up to a door with a sign reading "Vote here."
Voter Everette Bacon aims his phone camera at the door to Trolley Square so a phone-access guide can see the "Vote Here" signs and direct him to the polling place inside.

Blind Utahns and disability advocates are asking for more access to digital ballots after running into trouble at polling places.

Driving the news: Utah's primaries are set for Tuesday. Leading up to them, blind Utahns only have two ways to cast ballots.

  • They can vote by mail with another person's assistance, which means they can't vote in secret.
  • Or they can go to a polling place for an audio ballot — but navigating there may be difficult.

I encountered Everette Bacon at Trolley Square Wednesday. Everette is blind, and he was searching for the early voting center with the help of a camera-enabled guide service on his phone.

It did not go well.

Zoom in: Bacon arrived at Trolley Square when the polling site opened at 3pm, but signs pointing to the voting machines weren't yet posted.

  • His guide service directed him down almost every corridor of the mall for 40 minutes before he found the voting center.

What's next: Bacon's quest for the polling place was filmed by the Utah-based Disability Law Center, which is asking the state Legislature to approve funding for and access to e-voting for Utahns who can’t privately fill out a printed ballot.

  • Only Summit and Utah counties currently provide digital ballots to blind voters, said Sheri Newton, a voting-rights specialist with the law center.
  • The center plans to send the video to lawmakers and clerks across the state.

A half-hour into his journey, Bacon returned to the mall's east entrance, where his phone camera panned over a "Vote Here" sign that a poll worker had taped on the doors sometime after Bacon had first arrived.

  • Speaking on the phone to his perplexed guide, Bacon asked: "Should I just stop at these doors and … see?"

What happened: Bacon did cast a ballot (once the poll workers figured out how to operate the audio machine).

  • In total, he said, "It took an hour. It should have taken 5 minutes."
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