The Voting-on-Paper Assistive Device, called the “Vote-PAD,” is an inexpensive, non-electronic, voter-assist device that helps people with a broad range of visual or dexterity impairments to vote independently. The Vote-PAD can be used in any jurisdiction that uses voter-marked ballots. It is customized for each ballot in each election to provide access to the precinct’s hand-counted or optically-scanned paper ballot.
The heart of the Vote-PAD is the transparent “ballot sleeve,” which encloses the ballot on both sides and reveals the content of the ballot that slips into it. The Vote-PAD is composed of one custom ballot sleeve for each sheet of a ballot. The sleeves are bound together between front and back opaque covers for privacy. Holes are cut out of the sleeve at locations where a voter can mark choices. The sleeve protects the ballot from stray marks. A page-turning aid is attached to the outside of each sleeve and each cover to assist voters with dexterity impairments in turning the pages.
Raised dots attached to the sleeve beside each cutout provide tactile indications for voters with visual impairments. An audio tape interprets the raised dots so listeners know which hole corresponds to which candidate.
Unlike voter-assist methods that only offer audio instructions, the Vote-PAD can be accompanied by Braille and large-print instructions as well.A light-sensing wand allows voters with visual impairments to review their selections. As they replay the audio tape, or re-read the Braille or large-print instructions, they point the wand at each candidate location to receive vibrational feedback indicating whether or not the location is marked.
An opaque, sliding “privacy shield” sits in a pocket inside the front cover and slides part-way out to conceal the ballot as it is being deposited in a ballot box or precinct scanner.
The ballot for each election in each jurisdiction is unique. Because each sleeve is specifically constructed to match a unique ballot sheet, the Vote-PAD is custom built for each ballot. Therefore, production of each Vote-PAD is designed to be inexpensive so that the Vote-PADs can be recycled or discarded after each election.
Ellen Theisen, founder of VotersUnite.Org, founded Vote-PAD, Inc. in 2005 with input and encouragement from other concerned citizens, including some from the disabilities community. She designed the Vote-PAD to provide a low-cost, affordable method of providing independent voting to people with disabilities. It is still in use in Adas County WI.