Preform My Civic Duty
I take my civic duty to vote very seriously. I have been a registered voter in Georgia since about 1996. You can do the math and see we are talking about a lot of years . Even after I went blind I still continued to perform my civic duty and vote.
Additionally, I am active with my local city government, attending city council meetings and having conversations with my local councilwoman. Lastly, I listen weekly to an educational podcast on government and politics called Civics 101 hosted by the New Hampshire Public Broadcast Service. I don’t profess to know everything when it comes to politics but I try to stay current, advocate and educate myself. This is why I feel so strongly and was compelled to share about my recent bad voting experience in the 2022 general election. I have shared many times about my struggles with voting here on this blog. But what I experienced in this recent election takes the cake!
Bus Driver Asked to Help
ON Monday, Oct. 24, I took the bus to early vote. This was not unusual because I do this on a regular basis. But what was weird was the poll worker asking if the driver would assist me with my voting. I said no because a poll worker usually helps me and the driver was just dropping me off. The poll worker told me to have a seat while she went off to find someone to assist.
I sat there and waited. I was confused because the precinct was not crowded. I continued to wait. Then finally I got up and walked toward where I could here people talking and asked when someone was coming over to assist me. This all seemed strange because I vote in every election and never been told to go sit at a table and wait, especially when it is not busy.
Poll Worker Said No to Assistance
I was then told that poll workers could no longer help me. They would have to get another voter to assist. I got very angry at this news and said this couldn’t be true. They insisted and it had to do with SB 202. One of the poll workers said she called and spoke to the director to confirm and verify. I pushed back more and shared about a blind friend who went to vote at my county headquarters location. She didn’t have this problem and voted the first day of early voting. I even shared about my time voting in the midterm and didn’t have this problem. However, they still insisted and refused to help me.
Type of Help I Needed
Now, let me stop my story for a minute to clarify what help I needed. Here are the specifics:
- Filling out any paperwork. I give the poll worker my Georgia state ID and they fill out the form and then I sign it.
- Escort to the accessible voting machine. They make sure I am seated and the machine is working properly before they walk away.
- Escort to the second machine to cast my ballot and turn in my plastic card
- Escort out the precinct.
Another Voter Helped Me Instead
As I stated earlier I have been voting for a long time as a blind person. In every election I get this help. Except this time. Another voter not a poll worker did all of this. That is the problem. Although the other voter was nice and kind she was not familiar with what to do to help a blind voter. They had to give her instructions.
After I voted and printed out my ballot she started to grab it off the machine. I stopped her and told her she could not touch my ballot. She quickly apologized and said she didn’t know. This is why I have a problem with this whole situation. She was not a poll worker and wouldn’t know the rules.
Confusion with Code on Ballot
Next, she escorted me to the other machine to cast my ballot. I was asked by a poll worker to turn in my plastic card. After giving it to him, he asked to see my ballot to get some kind of QR code off it. I have no idea what this code was or why he needed it.
I got upset and told him he was not supposed to see my ballot. I asked him what this QR code is because I don’t remember being asked that before. Another poll worker came over and began to explain, saying they needed to know my precinct. I gave them the info. But was wondering why you didn’t just ask directly for it. This made no sense to me.
After I gave my precinct info I was ready to cast my ballot. But before I could do so, someone offered instead. Again, this was strange because I cast my own ballot each time I vote. I explained again that no one was supposed to touch it and I placed it on the machine myself. Then the other voter escorted me outside so I could wait on my ride.
Researched SB 202
- Changes in absentee voting.
- Changes to vote counting.
- Changes in early voting.
- Changes effecting local voter offices.
- Changes effecting the state election board.
ADA Addresses Blind Voting
Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA) specifically addresses accessible voting. Blind and visually impaired voters must receive accommodations when casting their ballot in a governmental election. State and local governments must help a blind person, whether it is to offer an absentee ballot, read voting information and/or have an accessible voting machine
So, the fact the poll worker told me I couldn’t get assistance was wrong. I called the Georgia Secretary of State office to file a complaint. They referred me to my county Election Office. As of this writing, I have attempted to file a complaint but have not been totally successful. There seems to be confusion about assisting a blind person when voting and no clear voting complaint process. I have also contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and they have documented my concerns. Because I know the power of my vote and have civic pride I will continue to press the issue. Although this experience was awful, I will not give up voting.