The right to vote is enshrined in the Constitution, but for some people with disabilities it can be a challenge.
That can lead to confusion and long lines for everyone, not to mention lower voter turnout.
New voting technology pioneered by Clemson University computer science professor Juan Gilbert would solve that problem — and it’s starting to take off.
Matthew Phillips’ world has been dark since he was an infant. But he’s never let his blindness hold him back from exercising his right to vote.
“If I don’t vote at all, then I don’t really have a say so about what’s going on,” said Phillips.
But it’s a challenge. He has to bring someone in with him to help him cast a ballot.
“Usually my mom or somebody will come with me and vote. I have had places ask me before, ‘Well, how is he going to do it?’ Because they don’t know,” said Phillips.
That confusion can lead to longer wait times for everyone at the polls.
New technology pioneered by Gilbert would streamline that process, cutting down on wait times by allowing voters of all abilities to use the same exact machine.
“Prime III is the world’s most accessible voting technology ever created,” said Gilbert.
Prime III software can run on a tablet or laptop. Voters can cast ballots using a combination of touch screen, a headset and microphone, or a textured touch selector.
You can also fill out your ballot ahead of time online or on your phone, which generates a QR code. Then you bring that code to the voting booth and Prime III scans it in.
The whole set-up costs about $2,000. That’s $1,000 cheaper than South Carolina’s current machines, which could be up for replacement by 2018.
Gilbert said a test run of Prime III in Oregon during the 2012 presidential primary resulted in a “significant increase” in voter turnout.
Several precincts in Wisconsin and Florida will test out Prime III in the next few months.
Gilbert also invented another voting technology called Voter Pass. It’s like the “fast pass” you can get at amusement parks for roller coasters to skip the long waits by scheduling a certain time to come back. You make an appointment online in advance, then show up to the voting booth at that time.
Gilbert is working with Richland County to possibly do a test run of Voter Pass in March.