Stevens Point Woman Questions Process for Disabled Voters

The Associated Press estimates nearly 120 million Americans cast ballots in last week's election.

Among them is Nika Hill, a blind Stevens Point resident, who questions the process for those with disabilities.

Nika is visually impaired, and although her guide dog, Rocky helps, she had to rely on a Stevens Point poll worker when registering and voting. “He took me over to a table that was sort of separated from all the other voting areas and basically filled out my ballot for me,” she explained.

She says she doesn't suspect any wrong doing but says the process took away the anonymity of her secret ballot. “The other thing is you're not sure if who you're voting for is the person that they're put down,” she says.

The process is rare but has precedent. Ballots in Wausau require the signature of anyone assisting voters. Hill is unsure whether her ballot was signed in Stevens Point. “I think he had initially thought of signing his name, and then he had me sign it, if I remember correctly,” she says.

In most cases, voters with disabilities use "Auto Mark" machines which cater to a variety of impairments.

Toni Rayala, City Clerk in Wausau explains, “It actually has braille and it can assist telling you what the candidates are, who they are and then you make the option of who you choose to mark. It also has a headset.”

But Nika says she didn't know to ask for the machine. “I had no clue that it even existed until after i had voted and then got feedback from some of my other friends who are visually impaired.”

City clerks, Government Accountability Board members and disability rights workers agree, the Auto Mark devices need additional promotion.

Next time, Nika says she'll ask for the Auto Mark system. “I think it's such a private thing to be able to vote for who you want to vote for and I like the fact that it would give me the ability to vote just like everyone else.”

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