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Oregon Residents Cast Votes Using iPad in Special Election

November 08, 2011

Oregon Residents Cast Votes Using iPad in Special Election

By Erin Harrison
Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

Democracy has officially stepped into the 21st century. “Get Out the Vote” has taken on a new meaning in the state of Oregon, where residents are able to cast their votes in a special primary election today using an iPad.

Voters in five counties are choosing a replacement for U.S. Representative David Wu, who resigned amid a sex scandal, not by filling out a paper ballot or pulling a lever on a machine, but by tapping a screen.

“Armed with iPads and portable printers, county election workers are going to parks, nursing homes, community centers and anywhere else they might find groups of voters who have trouble filling out traditional paper ballots,” The Associated Press (News - Alert) reported.

According to media reports, the portable voting system was chosen because it allows voters with limited mobility to make their choice in private, “either by tapping their chosen candidate on the screen, or using an attached ‘sip and puff’ device for those who cannot use their fingers,” PC World said.

With or without the help of election workers, using the iPad, disabled voters can call up the right ballot and tap the screen to pick a candidate. In addition, voters with vision problems can adjust the font size and screen colors; they also have the option of the iPad reading them the candidates’ names and even the voter pamphlet.

After the voter completes the ballot on the iPad, it is then printed and put in an envelope for the voter to mail in or take to an official ballot box, according to The AP. 

Another benefit of using the iPad to vote is its Bluetooth capability could also be utilized to allow voters with disabilities to connect to the voting software using their own joysticks and other assistive devices, voting officials said.

Apple (News - Alert) has donated five of its iPad devices for the experiment, and the state spent about $75,000 to develop the software, according to media reports.

Although election workers appear to be having success with the tablet voting method in the special election, there are no immediate plans to open up use of the iPad to the general voting population in the state.

Steve Trout, state elections director, told The AP that the state would need two iPads per county, or a total of at least 72, to expand the program statewide.

Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TMCnet, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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