And you know what? It was! I voted on my own in the Illinois primary election yesterday!
The Help America Vote Act of 2002 mandated that voting systems provide some way for people to vote independently and privately (including those of us with disabilities), but if you’ve been following our Safe & Sound blog for a while, you know there have been many, many elections since 2002 where that hasn’t been the case for me (and probably not for others, either). I cried on election day, 2012. Not because my candidate lost — he won. I just wasn’t able to vote for him by myself.
Here’s what happened that year: Mike and I showed up together at the polling place, and while he went to a booth to vote, I waited and listened to the poll workers scramble. “Where are the headphones?” “Anyone know how you make that computer talk?” “How do you turn it on?” “Why isn’t there any sound?” “How’s it supposed to work?” They seemed to want to do right by me, but few of them knew what “right” was.
Mike finished voting. I was still standing there. In the end, he signed an affidavit, guided my Seeing Eye dog Whitney and me to a traditional voting booth where he read the choices out loud and had me tell him (and anyone else near enough to eavesdrop) who I wanted to vote for.
But not yesterday. Mike had an errand to run, so I showed up at our precinct alone with Whitney. Poll workers seemed sincerely happy to see us, they helped me fill out a paper form to register, and after I used a straight-edge to sign on the dotted line, one of the poll workers showed us to a computer.
“You know how to work these?” the poll worker asked, placing a special handheld contraption the size of a cell phone in my hand. I nodded yes (I’d attended a special class free-of-charge earlier at the Chicago Public Library to be introduced to this technology) and put headphones on. Tactile buttons on the contraption allowed me to take my time, scroll through the ballot, mark my choices, and…abracadabra! I voted.
All. By. Myself.
A small thing for some, but huge for me. A lot was riding on yesterday’s vote, and I felt privileged –and proud – to have a part in making those important decisions.
Now, bring on those presidential elections in November!