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Visually Impaired Iowans Report Voting Challenges

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DES MOINES, Iowa - Some Iowans are having trouble casting their ballots.

Michael Barber, of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, is envisioning big problems come Election Day.

"It is a crisis, as far as I'm concerned," Barber said. "It was Wednesday when I heard the first complaint about a person in Henry County. He could hardly understand the speech and had a very difficult time understanding the instructions."

The Iowa Board of Voting Equipment Examiners approved the voting machine, Unisyn OVI Unit, for use by 11 counties on Nov. 6.

"My fear is that there will be blind people in these counties that will be disenfranchised," Barber said.

Barber said the voting machine is tough to operate, its buttons are hard to push, the volume is hard to adjust and the machine uses a different segregated ballot.

"(It) means people know there must be a blind guy that used that machine," Barber said. "Especially when you live in a county where there might only be one of you using the machines. In an area where there is only one (visually-impaired voter), then they know who you voted for."

"In 2006, that was the first time I was able to say, 'I did it myself. It was private and nobody knows.' That's very important to me. And to have the possibility of people losing that right, it just upsets me," Barber said.

According to the Iowa Secretary of State's Office, the Federal Election Assistance Commission is required to examine and approve all voting systems, which it did in this case. However, the decision on which equipment to use is made by each individual county.

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