The Register Herald, West Virginia USA.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006.
For the first time in three decades of faithfully going to the polls, Keith Bucher didn't need anyone lending him a helping hand.
That speaks volumes for a blind man.
And it says even more about the iVotronic voting devices, the high-tech machines that employ a recorded voice to guide the visually impaired through the voting process.
Blind since birth, the 51-year-old resident of Reader in Wetzel County says he has looked forward to voting unassisted ever since hearing news accounts about the iVotronics.
"Always before, I had a sighted person go with me," he said.
"This is the first time I ever voted alone."
Bucher cast his first ballot in a 1974 off-year election, and has been a fixture at the polls ever since.
Wearing headphones in the special handicapped-equipped machine, Bucher clutched a diamond-shaped key that activated a cursor up and down the ballot.
"You hit the key and it tells you the candidates," he said.
"It says the name, then selected or not selected. Then you press the diamond button again and it takes you back out to a different contest, and the different choices."
Once the choices are made, the iVotronic repeats all the choices in a review, allowing the impaired voter to make changes before exiting the booth, he said.
"It's kind of like a computer keyboard," Bucher said.
"It will say, for instance, five choices. If there is no candidate, it will tell you nobody is running. There were a lot of races that didn't have anybody. It gives you all the information you need."
For all the elections past, Bucher always relied on a sighted person to help him fill out the ballots.
"There is nothing like being able to do it by yourself," he said.
Voting takes a mite longer on the handicapped accessible device, but Bucher didn't mind. For once in his voting career, no one was looking over his shoulder.
"If you lived in a big city, I imagine it would be a really long ballot and you would need a good while," he said.
Some counties didn't get the new machines in a delay by the producer, ES&S, so Bucher felt fortunate Wetzel County got its share in time.
"There were no problems with mine," Bucher said.
"It does it all. It says all you need and what you have selected. You can change it. I didn't have to have any help at all. I can't see why any blind person would have any excuse whatsoever for not voting."
Bucher marked a secret ballot and he kept it that way.
"Do I have to tell you for the paper?" he asked, with a chuckle, when asked how he was registered.
So pleased is he with his first experience with computer-style voting that Bucher is ready to go back to the polls.
"I wish we could have another election right away," he said.
"I'm looking forward to November."
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