Episodes

Can Disabled Americans Vote?

13 Letters
February 27, 2020

When Whitney Quesenbery talks about elections, she uses phrases like “design tragedy” and “unintended consequences.” Though the number of disabled voters has gone up over the last few decades, the numbers are still scary – and the gap between disabled and non-disabled voters still means millions of uncast votes. A usability and UX leader known for her book “A Web For EVeryone,” Quesenbery co-founded the Center for Civic Design to apply UX best practices to promote civic participation. Designing good products by focusing on real human personas and rigorous usability testing in the field, Quesenbery is determined to ensure that not only will voters get a chance to vote but to reduce the chances that a tiny design flaw will cause voters to accidentally vote for the wrong presidential candidate.

Show notes:

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Episode Transcript

Will Butler:
Do you have positive or negative associations with the act of voting? How do you feel?

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:
I have ... well, okay. A lot of things haven't gone the way that I expected in the past few years, so I might say negative associations right now. But in general I think it's really cool that I can have some impact on my government. I think especially living in San Francisco, there's a lot of different proposition, like local propositions that people really, really care about and get really passionate about and it feels important to vote on those things and to help be a voice for more affordable housing, et cetera.

Will Butler:
But on voting day, do you jump out of bed and you're like, "Yeah, I get to navigate a whole new situation today and meet lots of people and stand in another line?"

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:
Oh, well I don't really talk to anyone at the polls, I'm very antisocial. No, but mainly when I wake up on election day, I'm like, "Why isn't this a national holiday? Why do I need to kind of choose between going to this meeting or voting?" And then I know a lot of people do vote by mail. I really like the process of going and standing in line and waiting my turn and filling the thing in by hand. Because for me, it makes the process feel more real to be part of that long line of strangers who are all voting for or voting on the same things, not necessarily for the same things. Yeah, what about you, Will? How do you feel about voting?

Will Butler:
Not great.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:
Oh man.

Will Butler:
I mean, I feel good about it as a concept.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:
Yeah, same.

Will Butler:
And I haven't felt ever like it's more important, but my associations with it are very blur. I always have to talk to someone, that's awesome that you could just go and mark your thing. Because I go and I show up and they don't know what to ... They see a white can and they're like, "Ah." And then they get skittish and then that makes everything worse. And so then my job is to calm them down.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:
And that shouldn't be your job ever. Yeah.

Will Butler:
And then at that point we're also emotional that I don't even want to ask like, "Do you have a special machine for me?" Because then that's really going to freak them out. It's so hard to even get your foot in the door.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:
Wow. Thank you for sharing that experience, because I have not experienced that and it's kind of a luxury to just walk in and fill in my form and then walk out and first get my sticker and then walk out.

Will Butler:
I just vote by mail, typically that's what I've been doing.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:
And is that process fairly easy?

Will Butler:
Well, no, not particularly because then often it means you have to fill out the ballot at home, which means either really struggling with your technology or getting someone to do it for you. And I'm lucky that my social group is pretty homogenous when it comes to political beliefs. But I don't think that's the case for everyone, and even this year I think I might want to make some different decisions and I don't know who I'd ask to do that.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:
Yeah. I think people think, oh, it's super private because you fill it out in the comfort of your own home, but if the actual ballot that you're filling out isn't accessible and you need to ask someone else for help, then the privacy goes out the window.

Will Butler:
Where did you first hear about our guest today?

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:
I first heard about our guest a few years ago when someone on my UX team, on my user experience team was like, "Have you read this book A Web for Everyone? It's really cool. It was just a really great primer on universal design with some really awesome kind of like toolkits and methodologies for people to create products that work well for everyone and it was awesome."

Will Butler:
And she's now super active in elections. And I guess that goes back almost 20 years. But I think more recently they've really kicked it into high gear.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:
Yeah, which is incredibly important right now because there are so many shenanigans going on with voting that we need to eliminate the shenanigan of inaccessible voting.

Will Butler:

Elections are not an area where you want to hear the word shenanigans, not really ever.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Never. Yeah. And so it's a really complex space. So I'm really glad that we have Whitney on today to talk a little bit about voting accessibility and what's been happening in this space and where it could go.

Will Butler:

Awesome. So let's just jump into the interview with Whitney Quesenbery from the Center for Civic Design.

Whitney Quesenbery:

The question I have for you is when we say something like, "You can look this up at lavote.net." Are we going to have a way to post those links?

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Good. Okay. So we don't have to worry about stopping and spelling it out and things like that.

Will Butler:

Yeah. Now, they'll all be in the show notes and I might write down a few of them as we're talking.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

And we're also going to have a transcript.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yay, thank you. Yes, I assumed you would. If it wasn't you, I'd beat you up on it, because I usually [inaudible 00:05:57] about transcripts.

Will Butler:

If we don't have transcripts, then the whole world, we're really doing something wrong.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Well, I have to send someone in. I was saying, "Great podcast to sit with you, but I can't send out a link unless there's a transcript."

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

That's good. We need more people to do that.

Whitney Quesenbery:

You know who taught me that trick is Gerry Gaffney who does a wonderful UX podcast and Shawn Henry did a thing with him and wouldn't do it unless he did, and he's decided that it was just easy enough to do.

Will Butler:

There's a really great website called rev.com.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yeah, I use them all the time.

Will Butler:

God, they're so good.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

What is rev.com?

Will Butler:

They make transcripts.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Automated.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

What? How did I not know about this when I transcribed a three hour interview?

Will Butler:

It's a dollar a minute.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah. Okay.

Whitney Quesenbery:

You still have to check them, but they're pretty good.

Will Butler:

They're pretty darn good. They got a lot of proper nouns that I was very surprised. I wondered if they were Googling to make sure they had their proper nouns right.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Awesome. Thanks for joining us.

Will Butler:

Yeah, we're really excited to chat about voting.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah.

Whitney Quesenbery:

I'm always excited to chat about voting.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

It's a very timely discussion.

Will Butler:

Yeah, we just dove into primary season and one side's got it pretty well figured out, but another side has got a lot of voting to do.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Before we get into voting, you and Sarah Horton wrote a really fantastic book called A Web for Everyone, that I constantly recommend to colleagues in the UX space. I'm wondering if you could share a little bit more about that book and particularly around how you came up with the personas.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Sarah and I were both focused on the idea of general principles. And I'm really not a coder in any way, shape or form, so I'm usually focused on people. And one of the problems with all of the accessibility work is that it's all about rules. And I know how I feel about roles, in fact a lot of people do as well. And my work is almost always focused on people. So I wanted a way to make the connections that all of us who've got into accessibility figured out by meeting people, by doing research with people, by watching people use the technologies in their life, so that we could connect the accessibility guidelines to help people use the digital tools and how the guidelines helped them work better. It just a lot easier to focus on the impact of your work instead of just trying to remember to follow every little rule.

Will Butler:

So it's putting a human face on the sort of like hard, fast rules.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yeah, I think actually, and human faces because humans are very varied, but so are disabilities. And so being able to think about what happens to someone who maybe their eyes aren't as sharp as they used to be when you've got a dark blue on light blue interface. And as you think about the people, I think you become much more sensitive to those issues than if you're just thinking, do these hex numbers add up to the right contrast ratio.

Will Butler:

Can you tell us about one or two of the personas? Cordelia, who are your favorites?

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah, there's this persona called Emily, who uses a scooter for mobility, has minimal use of her hands. And I really like the case study and how Emily might be interacting with computers through joystick control, et cetera.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Sure. I mean, I love him, actually I love all of them because all of them are in part based on people we knew. But they were also based on representing a demographic, a type of use of technology. And I guess one thing I should say is all of them use technology. We're not talking about the digital divide here. This was about you're building a website, people who come to your website will come with all kinds of abilities and disabilities and ways of interacting and kinds of devices they use. And how do we think about that? So that was the starting point.

Whitney Quesenbery:

So Emily is loosely based on several people I know who use scooters for mobility, and who maybe have limit to use their hands, maybe aren't so verbal, but are nonetheless living alone in the community and living independently. And I think it's really important that all of the personas are working, functional. We have a deaf graphic artist whose motto is, my only disability is you don't know my language. And we're actually, the picture we created of him was of signing through FaceTime. Because that's really changed people's lives. And we wanted also to give these hints about how technology have made people's lives better.

Whitney Quesenbery:

We vetted the personas and the images with a lot of people we knew and we drove the artist crazy. When he drew Emily, he had the dog on the side. She has a guide dog who can do things for her and she had the dog on the side with the wheelchair controls and we said, "No, no, dog has to be on the other side." And he's like, "Really?" I'm like, "Really?" And the first person we showed it to said, "Wow, you got the dog on the right side."

Will Butler:

Exactly, yeah, they'll notice.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Right. Yes.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah. Those details really matter.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yeah. I have a friend who's on the board of a school for kids on the spectrum and she said, "Oh yeah, look at those pencils lined up." I mean, so we looked for the things that were recognizable signs and symptoms, but might not be so obvious if you aren't already familiar with people.

Will Butler:

This might be a weird question, but something you said made me think, would there be any value to creating personas for people who are on the other side of the digital divide?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Sure. I guess it depends on whether they're part of your audience. So one question might be, what happens if you're thinking, how can we help people who aren't already connected get more connected? We spend a lot of time at Civic Design thinking about that. We want to know what happens when someone who doesn't know about elections needs to get election information? Where do they go, how do they find it and so on. And not all of them, I mean, they're all voters, but they may not all be people who rush to the web for the first piece of information. So we think about that kind of thing a lot. So thinking about your outliers and your outliers might be, Jacob, our blind persona who is a total, total equipment geek all the way to someone who is much less engaged in the multi-verse.

Will Butler:

Can you tell us a bit more about the Center for Civic Design and how it got founded and started?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Sure. So in 2000 we had this election. You may recall this election, it went on for quite a while. I actually got elected at the same time to the board of what was then UPA, now you XPA, Usability Professionals Association.

Will Butler:

Were they using a butterfly ballot?

Whitney Quesenbery:

No, we were more like, please, please, with somebody run. And they announced it, now that I was on the board, I would be in charge of outreach and that I was supposed to go do something about this election we just had. And I knew nothing really. I mean, I knew that I was a voter, but that was all I knew. But I did know how to go to talk to people and I did know how to write up what I was learning.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And in 2002 there was a federal law passed called The Help America Vote Act. And part of that vote mandated a federal advisory committee for creating voting system standards. And I ended up on that committee as one of the technical experts. And Dana Chisnell, who was the co-founder with me of Center for Civic Design. And she did some work and we did some work with a little training, we did a little banging around the auctions world. We did a lot of learning to meeting people. And every once in a while we'd say, "Should we make this into an organization?" And then we say, "No, it's a lot of work."

Whitney Quesenbery:

In 2013, we were invited to work on a project for a group called The Future of California Elections to improve the information in California voter guides, especially for people who might be new to voting or infrequent voters. For those of you who don't live in California, California voters get not one but two different voter guides, one from the state, one from their County. And in a big city, they can be a small phone book. I mean, it's a pretty medium amount of information. And that kicked us off into actually founding the Center of Civic Design, that was in 2013. Everything has just taken off and now we're a team of four civic designers plus a few support and doing work across the country.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

That's fantastic. You mentioned the 2000 butterfly ballot in Florida. Could you talk about the ramifications of it not being accessible?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Let's unpack the word accessible here. This is actually a design tragedy, because the election director in Palm Beach County had been to a talk or read an article and that talked about the fact that people, older adults, our eyes start to go and need larger text to be able to read well. And she thought I had to do something about that. And so she made the text bigger. But the physical layout of that ballot meant that all of a sudden with the text bigger, all the candidates didn't fit on one column. I think there were a lot of candidates for president that year because there's ... well, because more people run the national candidates.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And so she went to what they call the butterfly ballot to accommodate that. And so by trying to solve one problem, she created another, that's why it's a tragedy is that it wasn't done to try to make it harder for people to vote. It was done to actually try to make it easier for people to vote. And the challenge of it is if you actually look at the ballots that are made up for one of those punch card ballots, you can't see the problem until you try to use it. So this is why usability testing is so important because the ballot papers look just fine. It's getting the punch lined up with the right candidate that was hard.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And because no one tried it out, there was QA, there's always QA worked on on ballots. But no one actually thought about trying it out for how the ballots work. The other thing that happened, not in Palm Beach but in some other counties was that the way they were teaching people how to vote, they were saying, "Vote every page." And so they voted on the left side and they voted on the right side.

Whitney Quesenbery:

So you can see how these little unintended consequences ripple through ballot design and all, I mean, since 2000, there's been some interesting not such great ballots. Most recently the Broward County 2018 ballot arguably could have changed the result of the election, of course we'll never know.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Can you tell us a little bit more about that ballot?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Sure. It was a pretty standard paper ballot with bubbles that you filled in next to the candidates name. But Broward County publishes ballots in three languages, so English, Spanish and Creole. And the instructions were in the first of the three columns that ballot and they went way down because it was the same instruction three times. They'd written them in a pretty wordy way, not great plate language, no nice illustration.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And right under those instructions was the first contest, Senate. And then that happened to be a very hotly contested contest, but a lot of people missed it. Now the ballot was also multiple pages, multiple sheets of paper and it was long. I think it was 22 inches long, so it was a big thing. If you think about standing a little booth and you're working at the top of the ballot, well, that bottom of the page is kind of hanging over the edge and you just missed it. And people when they check about tend to think about what they've seen is certainly afterwards that they think about who else they wanted to vote for. Not everybody, some people came in like, "I'm going to find Senate, and vote for my senatorial candidate."

Whitney Quesenbery:

But what happened was they saw the instructions, maybe they read them in English, maybe they skipped over the Spanish, and then, okay, I'm done with that. And they went to what they saw as the first contest on the second column and missed Senate entirely. And worse, sometimes there was a congressional race underneath it, but in many of the ballots that had this problem, the congressional race was uncontested. So there was less interest in voting in it. And so in one case, we had people voting for the wrong candidate. In this case, we had people under what's called under voting or skipping a contest. And it's hard, they're all little delicate problems where there's a kind of perfect storm effect. Where a large ballot, complicated thing, long instructions all come together.

Will Butler:

Yeah. And for those that, for whatever reason, if you don't know, obviously that might've had a massive effect on the 2000 election, smaller effects in other places. We're still seeing little versions of this all the time, even just in Iowa, recently, the survey software that was being used was supposedly cutting off candidates names as a result of enlarge text. And I wonder why isn't usability testing something that is standard for these sorts of-

Whitney Quesenbery:

Let's untangle this a little bit. There's, you were talking about the Iowa survey that had to be stopped, that's survey software. That's general purpose survey software that just wasn't accessible, but it ... well, it has an impact on elections, does not actually affect the election. And the Iowa Caucuses are run by the party. There was a little bit of shouting fraud in the election world because election officials know just how hard it is to run an election, to run an event that you get one shot at and you have to do right. And that means you training and practice and checking.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And still we see little mistakes because the variations are huge. In California, in 2018, and before that in 2016, there were contest with 30 plus candidates. Now it's an artifact of, in 2016, it was because there was an open contest for Senate and there hadn't been one in a long-time and lots of people ran. So you can't tell them they can't run. I mean, in commercial software, you might be able to say, you can have up to 30 choices, but not so in elections. And it turned out you couldn't fit them on one column. And one of the worst things you can do is split a contest across two columns because people tend to vote in both and then their vote doesn't count because they've voted for too many.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And there, we'd been working with election officials and they knew it was going to be a problem. And so they all started working together and asking us for input and running usability tests with our coaching. And one of them figured out that they could fit the 44 candidates on the back of the ballot, where you didn't have the big title and header. And so they began to find solutions and also knowing that this was going to be a problem in places where they couldn't fix it, they did tons of voter education.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Now there were still more over votes than you wish. But luckily in that contest, the winner won by a huge margin. So while it was a problem, if it had been a very tight race, it might've been more of a problem. So all these things have to be, and in an election where small changes, because elections are about big numbers. And so a small percentage of errors in a big number adds up to a lot of votes.

Will Butler:

Yeah. Why is it that there isn't more standardization here? Maybe this is naive, but why can't there just be a standard way ballots are done and everybody gets in line and they work.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Well, it's not as unstandard as you think. Although there is some advantage to there being local control. Imagine if the entire country had been voting on the butterfly ballot. So the local control contains a little bit, but also your ballot, the ballot you vote on is specific to a really narrow geographical range because it's not just president, but it's also which town are you in for mayor? Which district are you in for city council? Are you in a water district that has a measure on the ballot and so on. So there's a lot of variation. And I think some of the problems come in the fact that, well, I mean Los Angeles County has some 4,500 ballot styles.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Wow.

Will Butler:

Who are the people who are designing these ballots?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Well, it's two things. One is that there's a tool they're using, so they all have election management systems that create a ballot that the tally system they bought, that the system they bought to count the ballots can read. But either someone who's on the staff of the election department or someone who's hired as a part-time, short-term person or sometimes a company that specializes in doing that in LA, they normally have to do 4,500 ballots, they do them in 13 languages.

Whitney Quesenbery:

So what happens when the ballot measure takes us a little longer in one language and it doesn't quite fit. So they're not identical ballots even within the same two neighbors. One who's reading the Korean ballot and one who's reading the English ballot are reading about that might have a slightly different layout. It's just not as ... there's a lot more variation than you think about. I mean, it's a really, really wicked hard problem.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Absolutely.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And the fact that we get through it most of the time is the amazing part.

Will Butler:

Well, then let's talk about voter turnout because I wonder, we've talked a little bit about how difficult this ballot problem is and maybe it's sunnier than we might make it out to be. But how many people are eligible to vote and how many are actually voting and how is that different in terms of people with disabilities?

Whitney Quesenbery:

We have been studying turnout by people with disabilities, well, for a long time, but certainly since HAVA, since 2002. And one of the things that we knew going in was that turnout by people with disabilities was lower than general, the general public. The data comes from a census program called The American Community Survey, which means that it's self reported numbers. So, let's add one thing, which is that we know people inflate whether they actually voted or not. And we know that because more people say they voted on The American Community Survey than the actual turnout.

Whitney Quesenbery:

So in 2012, there's a set of researchers at Rutgers that have been following this for a long time. And I'll make sure I get you the link so you can put it in the session notes. But in 2012, the turnout by people who said they had a disability was 5.7% lower than the overall rate, but the numbers are improving. So we're getting both more people with disabilities voting, and we're getting fewer, the turnout gap is shrinking in fact for ... and it shrinks at different rates for the different kinds of disabilities because each one has a different kind of challenge getting to the polls, but it's a lot of voters. In 2012, that was 3 million missing voters. Interestingly, one of the statistics that I think is really striking is that people with disabilities who are employed vote at the same rate as the general public.

Will Butler:

That is really interesting.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah, that is interesting, but that ties in with the very low employment rate.

Whitney Quesenbery:

It does. But what it means is that people who have a method of transportation, who are familiar with technology, who have access to information in digital form. I mean, all of those things conspired to make it easier to then use those skills and tools to vote. And I think the same thing by the way is true of people in historically marginalized communities and people in disadvantaged communities.

Will Butler:

What are the other factors in an individual's life, someone with a disability that makes them want to vote or not want to, or not vote. And we talked about transportation, that's huge. Is there a psychology behind it? Have you studied these sorts of things?

Whitney Quesenbery:

I do think that there's some issues around whether you think it's going to make a difference. And of course that might change over time in your life. We know that older people tend to vote more than younger people. I think part of that is that when you're young, you move around a lot, you're not as settled into your community, so you don't have as deep roots and those roots don't extend to voting.

Whitney Quesenbery:

I think that marginalized communities often feel it doesn't matter. And I think that there's ... when people hit enough barriers, they give up. Now, there's an interesting study that was done at Google called, the title was interested by standards, and it suggest that there really isn't any such thing as apathy. That is people are interested in the world around you. The question is, do they feel they have enough agency, that is, will their actions make enough of a difference to turn out to vote?

Whitney Quesenbery:

And so if you're in a class and in a community where you feel your voice is heard, you are more likely to go exercise that voice. I was doing some testing about accessible voting in one of the States, and we had two people who came in to see the new voting machines, that their county had just bought. And they had never been an appalling place in their life. They had always voted absentee with someone helping them. And another in that same test was a much younger and much more technologically sophisticated blind woman, who had voted once in her life. And she went actually to vote because she thought the new machines had already been employed, deployed.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And so she was very excited about being able to vote. I asked her why and she said, "I just didn't want to vote when someone had to know who I was voting for." A young friend of mine brother is on the spectrum and she went to his school to teach the senior class, the graduating class, about how to register to vote. And what they discovered was that the staff was all sitting there listening in too. That it's not just civics education.

Whitney Quesenbery:

I talked to voters and they say, I say, "How did you register to vote?" And they said, "I came down to breakfast and there was a voter registration sitting in my cereal bowl and my grandmother was sitting across the table and she said, we fought for the right to vote twice, once as African Americans and once as women and you're not breaking the chain." I mean, that's a tough love invitation. But the point is you need to be invited into society. And if nobody says, "Of course you can vote, of course you should vote. Here's how to do it."

Whitney Quesenbery:

One things we discovered with brand new voters, especially new citizens, is they're really nervous about going to vote if they don't know what they have to do. They want to make sure they're not going to mess up, they're not going to do something wrong. Just even knowing that you're going to come in, someone's going to check your name against the list to make sure you're eligible to vote and that you're in the right place. You're going to go mark your ballot in some way. You're going to then cast that ballot and then you get your, I voted sticker. That just knowing that much is a huge step. I grew up with family, not only do ... It was a family of voters, my mother was a legal and voters person who went around and demonstrated how to vote in New York city.

Whitney Quesenbery:

So I'd been in and out of voting booth since I was old enough to be dragged along with her. So to me it was part of everyday life. But if voting is a little scary or different or new or you don't have such a great relationship with government or you are a little worried about how people are going to treat you at the polling place. All of those things conspire against you. National Disability Rights Network, Michelle Bishop's organization did a report on physical accessibility and she reported that less than half of the polling places were fully physically accessible and sometimes the building was accessible, but the voting booths were not set up in a way that made it easier for voters to navigate the polling place.

Whitney Quesenbery:

This is something that isn't especially about voting, the South Carolina ACLU did a survey of polling places in South Carolina four years ago and last year and discovered that, I don't know, some huge percentage were not accessible, and that the ones that were inaccessible in 2014 were often still inaccessible. I looked at the pictures and I thought, huh, a lot of these were in small towns where the building was probably the community center. And so that raises the question, how do people with disabilities use that community center the other 364 days of the year?

Will Butler:

Yeah. It strikes me also that there's so many factors that are very subtle. You talked about the kind of subtle psychological things of being a little scared or you live in a small town and if you're blind, you don't want to get stuck in a situation where the poll worker who's your neighbor is helping you fill out your ballot and you might have to make a decision based on the fact that you are going live next to them for the rest of your life.

Whitney Quesenbery:

That's right. Especially if you believe that your political opinions are a little different than everyone else's. We were doing some research on voter registration at motor vehicle offices and one of the things we found was that especially in heavily skewed districts, people were less worried about saying their weight out loud than about saying their party name.

Will Butler:

Wow.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Right. It's very personal.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Absolutely. I'm just curious because you were talking about people's anxiety about going to the polls and about this unfortunate reality that sometimes when people with disabilities get to a polling spot, they find that it's not accessible to them. So how can voters learn how to vote, and what to expect of the physical locations that they're visiting. Where do people find this information ahead of time?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Okay. So this is something that is highly variable but almost every election department, maybe every election department I've ever talked to spends a lot of their, the rest of their year doing demos, going to visit community centers, especially if they just bought a new equipment. And almost always if you go into your County clerk or elections office, they will have voting system set up you can try out. And I really encourage everybody to do that. I also found a really good podcast on Hadley presents. It was about voting with the visual disability, but it applies quite broadly. I'll give you the URL.

Will Butler:

Yeah, [crosstalk 00:34:23] show notes.

Whitney Quesenbery:

That I think is really nicely done.

Will Butler:

So would it be a matter of Googling like the name of your city and voting election accessibility or something like that?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Or just elections. Yeah. There are two groups of people that get sued over accessibility and one is education and one is elections. So election officers are very aware of that. That said, I got to say that one of the challenges of voting is that the polling place is accessible, the building is accessible and you get there and the accessible voting system has not been set up. There's an advocate who has been going for years to his polling place and it's never set up and you think, how many years does he have to go there and write about them for them to get that together.

Whitney Quesenbery:

But why does that happen? That happens partly because not enough people are using that voting system. That happens for a bunch of reasons. One is that people with disabilities who've been scared away from the polling place and are using vote by mail instead. Even if they'd rather go to the polling place. The other is that we've somehow decided that the accessible voting system is only for people with disabilities we can see.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Instead of saying that system should be available to anybody, maybe you don't read well and you would benefit from that audio and you don't want people to know that, maybe it's just easier for you to look at one, each contest one screen at a time than to have to sort your way around a big ballot. Maybe you just like the idea of electronic marketing because it gives you, make sure that you haven't over voted and it tells you any contest you've skipped. And so maybe we need more people using those machines. So if you're someone who doesn't have a disability, ask to use that machine.

Will Butler:

Yeah. Younger generations maybe we're going to find are more confident about voting electronic.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Well, and when we say voting electronically, usually we don't mean casting the ballot electronically, usually we mean using a computer to make your choices and it then prints out a ballot that can be cast. And right now that printed ballot, even though it is an accessibility challenge for some people is really important because it's how we can audit and recount the election. I don't say we're never going to vote over the internet, I just say we're not going to vote over this internet.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

That's a good distinction.

Will Butler:

I can't wait to see the next internet.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Well, you know what we have is so security, I mean it's just a security swamp. And how can we use that? We only can use it for financial transactions because they're not secret.

Will Butler:

I want to take a quick break. But when we come back, we're going to talk a little bit about what you can do on election day to help make the polls more accessible, whether or not you have a disability. Hey everyone, this is Will here to remind you that 13 Letters is seeking sponsors. If you're interested in advertising your accessibility related product or service on the podcast, send us an email, 13 Letters, that's 13letters@bemyeyes.com.

Will Butler:

And now back to our interview with Whitney Quensenbery. So Whitney, we've talked a lot about sort of the state of things. And I think that there's both like really frustrating things about voting as someone with a disability. And also there's light points and you see that, that older individuals are some of the highest turnout. There's a lot of overlap with disability there. So if people really want to vote, they can. But I'm wondering for those who are new to this, for those who are a little more intimidated, what can we do at the polls on election day that's going to make a difference. Number one, first and foremost, what would you say?

Whitney Quesenbery:

I think as an individual, I think the first thing to say is show up, show up and be seen. Even if you decided to vote by mail and to mark a ballot at home, a lot of states let you drop that ballot off at a polling place, so that's a great thing to do. Because showing up is half the battle. But on the other side of it, you could work the polls. I mean, you could be actually a poll worker because I think one of the biggest barriers to accessibility is that people don't know what people with disabilities need. And they're either afraid or a little nervous about making a mistake. They don't know how to talk to them. They don't know how to anticipate their needs.

Will Butler:

Wait, so I as a blind person, I could work at the polls?

Whitney Quesenbery:

I don't know. You might be able-

Will Butler:

Now I'm going to try.

Whitney Quesenbery:

I think you should try.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

You should.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Well, of course LA is moving to vote centers, but you should try, you could be a greeter. I mean, there's lots of things that you could do and there's been a lot of work to make, say the electronic poll books accessible. So making sure that we get not just an accessible voting machine, but an accessible election system. That's a pretty uneven future that we're all aiming for. The other thing, if you're ... whether you have a disability or not, we've said this, but vote on the quote accessible voting system, the more people that use it, the more likely it is to be set up for those who must use it. And also the more secret their ballots are.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

So as an able bodied person, I know that when I, for instance, go into a restroom, I try to avoid the accessible stall because I want to make sure that that's available for someone who needs it more than I do. How is voting at accessible voting stations different?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Well, it's a short task and it seems a little like self segregation to do that. Instead of saying this is a system that's good for everyone. And as a poll worker, we've had people in line who were rushed, who just were having a bad day, had broken her leg. And we often said, "Would anybody mind if this person goes ahead of you in line?" But you can see those people. I think that there's trade-offs there. And I think the trade-off in favor of everyone using the machine is really stronger. Because if there were lots of people lined up to use that machine, it would be set up and turned on everywhere, wouldn't it?

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

And there would be more than one.

Whitney Quesenbery:

That's right.

Will Butler:

And why should people with disabilities not have to wait in line, right?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yeah. I mean, there are-

Will Butler:

I mean, everybody else has to wait in line.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yeah, I mean there are places in Chicago County where everybody is offered the choice of an electronic ballot marker or hand marking their ballots equally. I mean, you can just choose either one and it's not a question about whether you have a disability or not, it's a question about which you prefer as a voter.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

And you made a point earlier as well that there are a lot of people who have invisible disabilities or who may just want to have the digital system that they're using to make sure that they're not missing particular items or over voting, under voting. It seems like these are just, to me, it seems like a much more reliable voting system in general.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yeah, I think so. I think clearly there's some challenges like making sure that people know that the paper that it prints out is what's going to get printed, sorry, it's what's going to get cast. So that paper ballot the machine prints is the ballot. And one of the things that we've been looking at is, do the ballot marking devices produce a ballot that your Seeing AI or your K-NFB reader or your dream reader can actually read for you.

Will Butler:

Wow. So you've tested that?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

And what are the results? Are they descent?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yeah, some are better than others. The newer ones are better. Some are less good. And one of the things that we hope to work on for the ... I don't know if we'll make it for the primaries, but for the general election is a guide to how to set the settings for your Seeing AI or K-NFB reader so that you can read that ballot.

Will Butler:

Wow, that's awesome.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

One area that's doing accessible voting really well is LA County with their VSAP, Voting Solutions for All People. Can you talk a little bit about what polling is like in LA County and what differentiates it from other places in the US?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Sure. Los Angeles County is in California and they are joining this year what's called The Voter's Choice Act, which lets the county move to a model that is vote by mail plus vote centers. So instead of just everybody getting sent a ballot, there's actually a vote center for every, I think 7,500 voters scattered across the County. They did a really big, very open, very inclusive project to decide on where those are. But it means that at the vote centers, every system there is accessible. And the expectation is that the people who come to those vote centers will be people who either need to use this machines or are first time voters or having some other problem. Maybe they've moved and they haven't updated their registration and they need to make use of California same day registration updates, in order to be able to vote.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And because so many people are voting at home, that means that the people at the vote centers have more time to work with individuals. I say this first because it's important to understand that the brand new voting system that California is rolling out on March 3rd, actually on February 22nd, the first vote center is open, so in just a couple of weeks. That those systems were designed for this environment, for this election model.

Whitney Quesenbery:

It started almost 10 years ago as just a project to assess which voting system they should buy to replace the ancient things that they've been voting on, which are actually punch card machines that have been turned into ink lot machines. And they found that, LA is physically large, it's got 5 million plus voters and it supports 13 languages. So it's big in every possible dimension, you can make elections complicated in. And nothing they saw looked like it would take them into the future.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And they began working on designing their own and they did it with incredible involvement from the community. They have an accessibility advisory committee. They had a community advisory committee and they had a technical advisory committee. And they did tons of usability testing. They went to cerebral palsy day centers, they went to VA centers. They did entire mock elections in other languages, testing the translations. And it was really an above and beyond level of work. I was on the technical advisory committee and one of the things that really struck me is how carefully they've worked through every single detail.

Whitney Quesenbery:

We worked on and argued about and let them come to decisions about lots of things. But it included doing bilingual audio. So they did a big usability test. And how do you do usability test of audio systems before they've been built? That's really hard. They actually hired voice talent and they had a wall with all of the screens laid out. And as the person tapped through the prototype, someone pointed for an audio voice talent, a person at the screen, they had it in English and Spanish. When they switched languages, they switched, they pressed the screen to make it go faster, they talked faster.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

That's awesome.

Will Butler:

Oh my gosh, only in LA.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Right. And so they thought about not just blind people using it, but people who are using it to augment their reading skills or to augment their English skills.

Will Butler:

Wow. Obviously language, a huge other part of accessibility that we don't talk about very often.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Right. So I'm super excited about this system because I think it produced ... the vote by mail ballots that launched in 2018, first of all, some of the most beautiful paper ballots I've ever seen. And the machine and the ballot that, the VSAT ballot marking devices print are also really beautiful, clear, easy to scan. The type is large enough. It just been done so beautifully and so carefully. The audio is there, is always on and ready to go. The tactical key pad is always on and ready to go.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And then they added this extra thing, which is called the interactive sample ballot. So Dean Logan, who's the LA County clerk registrar and recorder said, "We send people a paper sample ballot. We tell them to market, bring it to the polling booth and copy it." This sounds a little crazy, doesn't it? So his idea was that he could make a system that could be used on your mobile phone from home that would work for three audiences. The first is that for overseas voters, it can actually, it's used as a ballot marking device so they can use it to mark their ballots, print out a ballot that they then mail back to the election office.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Or it could be used by someone who just wants to make a list of who they want to vote for. And it produces a thing called a poll pass that has a QR code on it. So you can come into the polling place, scan that QR code and it takes you right to the review screen where you can check everything. And one of the models we think will happen with that is that maybe you don't put down who you're voting for president, because you want to actually make that choice live in the polling place. But the 17 measures and propositions that you have to vote for, you can spend all the time you want and get those just right, so you know which you're voting yes on and which you're voting no on.

Will Butler:

Wow. That's incredible.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

That's so cool.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Right. So think about that for someone who's blind or actually-

Will Butler:

Yeah. Well, I'm thinking about it for myself.

Whitney Quesenbery:

I mean, [inaudible 00:49:02] anything is that you can spend all the time you want sort of working through the issues, making sure you have it right.

Will Butler:

So Whitney, where do I find this? Where do I go? I'm in LA. How do I do this? It sounds amazing.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Go to lavote.net.

Will Butler:

That's it?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yep.

Will Butler:

Wow. Okay.

Whitney Quesenbery:

I don't think it's open yet. I don't think it opens till 22 days before, but I'm not sure. But there's some great videos and great information about it. Until the vote centers open, they are doing demo centers all over the county. And then you've got 15 days before the election to get to a vote center.

Will Butler:

Cool.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

That's so cool. I kind of want to just go down to LA just to try that out even though I can't put it there.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And by the way, it's not just LA under the [inaudible 00:49:48]. California in the voter's choice act requires that because voters choice act moves to vote by mail voting from home that there'd be an accessible way to do that. And so the interactive sample ballot also serves as a way, I don't know why we call it that, just sort of historical, but it also serves as a way to vote by mail as a blind person.

Will Butler:

Cool.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

But I love that even though it is a government requirement, it just sounds like there is so much thought and care and interdisciplinary collaboration to really make sure that this isn't just an accessible solution, but a usable one. This is really cool.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yeah. I hope I have the story right. But one of the places that they started going out to do research, someone from United Cerebral Palsy was on their advisory committee and they went out to the vote center, to their center. And with, one of the very first prototypes, not of the voting system itself, but just the stand. Because the question was, how are you going to make a stand that works for people in a wheelchair, works for people standing up and so on.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And someone was trying out the little prototype they had in it. And cerebral palsy means you have low control over your muscles at high force. And their fist came down on the corner and they flipped the whole thing over. And it made them think about how robust a voting system had to be. They actually, in a lot of places, the legs telescope up or down, the legs on these are the same height the screen tips forward and back.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Okay.

Will Butler:

Why is that?

Whitney Quesenbery:

To accommodate different heights. So if you're very tall, you can tip the screen flat and look down on it. And if you're in say a scooter and you're a little lower than an average height five foot, six to five, six foot two for a player, you can flip it more vertically so that you can see it well.

Will Butler:

This is educational for me. I didn't even actually know about the same day registration in California. I'm learning a lot.

Whitney Quesenbery:

That just came in a couple of years ago. They moved the voter registration deadline to 15 days and then after the 15th day, the last 15 days before the election, you have to go to the county clerk's office because they have to be connected to the voter registration system. Or in a vote center that's also connected to the voter registration system. Because of course they don't want you registering to voting and they're going to another place and registering to vote and voting.

Will Butler:

So LA County has done such an amazing job. We obviously hope that this will spread. But can you tell us a little bit about the states that need a little more help and how is that happening?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Every county is running an election. In the upper Midwest, it's townships, so it's very small governmental units. And some of them are going to be doing a fantastic job and some of them may be doing a pretty good job for everybody else, but not such a good job for you. So what can you ... I think I would love to see more people get involved with their local elections. Not just be a poll worker, although it's a good place to start because it lets you know what's going on, you learn a lot that way. But many of them have an accessibility advisory committee or maybe you had a bad day on election day and I'll tell you some things to do about it on the spot.

Whitney Quesenbery:

But maybe a couple of weeks after elections when the dust has cleared, maybe you go into the office and you say, "Hey, I'd like to talk to you. I'd like to tell you about my experience and I'd like to give you some ideas about how it might've been better." I think the election officials get yelled at a lot and people don't listen very well when they're getting yelled at. Or imagine a chapter of name your favorite organization, went in and said, "We would love to work with you. We would love to be your ambassadors."

Whitney Quesenbery:

I think they'd be very open to that. I mean, I think based on some experience that they'd be very open to that, because I think that they can only do what they can do. I was on a round table that the election assistance commission ran on accessibility. And a mayor of a medium sized town asked what could he do, what could he do to get better? And there was a person from the access board was on the panel and he said, "Do you hire interns? Hire some people with disabilities. Because interns are our short term hires, hire people with different disabilities every year. That way you will learn, your staff will get to know most people, they'll learn a lot just from working alongside them, and it'll be more visible."

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

What do you do if you encounter a problem on election day? What are your next steps?

Whitney Quesenbery:

If you have a problem on election day, it's like multiple lines of defense. The first thing you do is you ask to talk to the head poll worker. There's always somebody in charge of a polling place or a vote center and ask to talk to them. The next step might be to call your local office because they're the ones who can do something right on the spot and make a decision and tell the poll workers what to do.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Let's assume that you do actually get to vote, but you're not really happy with what happened. Every state has a complaint line and they actually say that one of the challenges is that people don't use it because they think, well, I got to vote and then they walk away from the problem. But how can they improve if they don't know what they're doing wrong? There's also a national election protection hotline. It's 1866, our vote, O-U-R-V-O-T-E. And they are a nationwide election protection hotline and that includes problems for people with disabilities.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And the other thing you could do is get in touch with the disability rights or protection advocacy office in your state or your favorite community group and get them to speak on your behalf. The disability rights groups do actually work often very closely with the secretary of state or the election state election board and can, when they have evidence that there's been a problem, we'd rather see them work out the problem than sue somebody. We'd rather see a solution and they can do that. The justice department, by the way, takes the same approach when they approach an election office. Their goal is not to have a lawsuit, their goal is to fix the problem.

Will Butler:

Can you call that 1866 number, 1866 our vote if you just have questions about how you vote as a person with a disability.

Whitney Quesenbery:

I'm not sure they're going to have a lot of help for you. I think I would call my elections office for that, because-

Will Butler:

Okay. [inaudible 00:56:59].

Whitney Quesenbery:

Well, your election office will know what kind of machines they have, where the polling place you're supposed to be is. They'll have so much more information that's personal to you as opposed to just taking down a problem. There are some election offices, especially in smaller places that actually offer rides to the polls. If somebody is really stuck, they'll offer a ride, or sometimes they know the group that does.

Whitney Quesenbery:

I know that some of the ride sharing services, we're doing free rides to the polls for people are highly discounted rides to the polls. There were some programs where because they have mapping software up, it could show where the vote centers were. And they could say, by the way, if you voted, on your way you're going to be right in your vote center.

Will Butler:

Wow. I love it. What about just solutions on the low tech side and maybe more rural areas or places where they don't have these sweet VSAT machines? What have some areas done to make sure that people with disabilities can vote?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Well, one solution is to have curbside voting. You'll see something where you can sort of, there'll be a mailbox, sorry, a doorbell with the stanchion sitting there. And someone will come out with a ballot or come out with even a ballot marking device. And so you can do it from your car. That's often available whether or not the building is accessible, but it's one of the accommodations that are available if they have a building that they can't make accessible.

Will Butler:

Like drive through voting?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Drive through voting. Absolutely. There was actually some discussion about whether ... Could you borrow a drive through at a local place to do drive through voting.

Will Butler:

Oh my goodness.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Right. Why not? In California County, and California did a ballot drop-off day, come drop your ballot off early. And they did it as a computer ride and people showed up with decorated pickup trucks.

Will Butler:

Wow. What else? What else have people done in the low tech.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Getting more serious, here's a low tech thing that Bexar County in Texas did, that San Antonio. But there's also a lot of rural places. And this goes to the point you made a while ago about, maybe you're someone who isn't comfortable using technology or the technology isn't working, but it's a small enough community that everybody in that polling place is someone you know. And so having someone help you is to give up your privacy.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And so what she figured out was that back at the county headquarters, there's a whole bank of people on the phones who are there to help answer questions and solve problems. And so she set up a system, this is the county clerk, set up a system where you as the poll worker, you'd come in, the poll worker would look up your ballot type, your ballot style number, which exact ballot you're supposed to be voting on. And they would take you to a corner of the room and they would give you a telephone and they'd say, they'd call up the county office and they'd get, well, two people on the other end of the line just to make sure that everything goes the way it's supposed to.

Whitney Quesenbery:

And they would read the ballot to you and mark it for you just like they would if they were assisting you sitting next to you, except they didn't know who you were and you don't know who they are except that there are two people in the county office. And they hold your ballot there and it gets added into the rest of the counts at the end of the day. And it sounds crazy, but it's really clever.

Will Butler:

It does sound crazy. A system like that flies just because the county approved it and they said, "Yeah, we feel like this is secure, let's go for it."

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yeah, because this is a phone call. There's another system that someone created. They meant it for overseas ballot. The question was how could somebody who is using a system like that and was visual, how could they verify their ballot? So the person would mark the ballot and then they were doing this on a video conferencing and they would hold the ballot up to the camera.

Will Butler:

Wow.

Whitney Quesenbery:

I mean, we have these new tools. We don't want computers to count the votes or to mark the votes and we don't want ballot marks selections people have made flying across our wildly insecure internet. But there are lots of cool things we can do with the technology we have.

Will Butler:

So if you're an election official or someone working in a county listening to this, the take home is you can be creative.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yes.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Within the law, but creative. In some places, if your voting system is not accessible, they will assign you to a different polling place and make sure you get the right ballot there. This is not a problem people don't know about. It's just a problem where the solutions are not widely publicized. I wanted to go back to something Will said about, could I work as a poll worker, as a blind person? Maybe not, but what if you could work on a support hotline? What if you could be, what if you could learn everything about accessible voting in your county, now maybe not in LA, but in a smaller place and be someone on the hotline, right? It's audio.

Will Butler:

Yeah. We might even be able to create one through Be My Eyes.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Oh, that'd be awesome. Yeah, I was wondering how Be My Eyes could help.

Whitney Quesenbery:

But every county has some kind of hotline. There are people on tap to answer questions, or maybe it's the [inaudible 01:02:13] voters in your town that does that. Would it be cool instead of making it a separate thing for people with disabilities, it was just part of all of it. And instead of having to say to someone, "I don't really know how the accessible voting system works." They would say, "Wait a minute, we have an expert here." And transfer them to you.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah, that'd be great. And I'd like to ... I hope there'll be a future where every polling spot, every polling booth is accessible, so you don't have to request the accessible one. You don't have to learn special instructions of how to use it because it's just the default one that is taught everywhere.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Yeah, that's right. When we were doing this testing in a state that's buying new voting systems, in addition to voters with disabilities, we also brought in groups of poll workers because the question we had for the poll workers was, could they learn to help people, voters with disabilities easily on these systems? Now they've been voting on kind of big machines. And they would walk in and they would stop about 50 feet away and they'd go, or 10 feet away and they'd go, "Oh my God, it's got a screen. [inaudible 01:03:27] it's got a screen."

Whitney Quesenbery:

And they'd sort of creep up on it and they'd sit down and we would do ... Because poll workers are all trained. So we would do a mini training for them. And then we'd invite them to choose somebody in their group to come try it out. And they'd all go, "Okay, Mikey, Mikey, you'd go try it out." And they'd all clustered around and watch him. And this talk took about 15 minutes to get to that point. And he would start going or she would start saying, "This is pretty easy. I can read this pretty well. It's pretty easy to do." All right. And then we start showing them some of the accessibility features and we'd ... And then after we'd gone, everybody had a chance to try who wanted it.

Whitney Quesenbery:

We did a thing where we had someone come in. It was a rehab therapist who works with multiple disabilities. We figured they didn't need to guess what they wanted, but he would say, "Hi, I'm Angela, I have my Angela hat on and I'm a blind business woman and I'm going to need the audio ballot." And the question was, "Could they set it up for her?" And in the course of about 45 minutes, they would start by saying, "We don't have anybody like that in our polling place." And then they would start to say, "Some of our assisted voters, people would come in with a personal assistant, maybe they could vote on their own with this thing." And then they would start going, maybe Monica's daughter could vote on this because it would turn out sometimes that one of their co-working, their coworkers had someone in their family with a disability. And so just seeing these machines began them thinking about how they could serve a wider range of voters. And it was really kind of heartwarming.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

So where do you think like looking ahead, I don't know, let's say 20 years, what do you think accessible voting will be like in 20 years?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Well-

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Or maybe even 10 years. That's kind of far out but-

Whitney Quesenbery:

No.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

I mean sometimes it takes a while for things to happen in the government.

Whitney Quesenbery:

It does take a while because a whole cycle is four years. So that's only five elections out. Look, I would like to see everybody, I would like to see more people having the option to vote from home because I think it takes a lot of the pressure off of voting. And I would like to see that become something where you can use your own personal setup, whatever AT you like best to make the decision and tell it your choices and it creates something that you can cast.

Whitney Quesenbery:

Now, will we have something where you could cast it digitally in 20 years? I don't know. I mean, we're still dealing with spam email, so I don't know if we'll get there in 20 years. But that's where we're aiming for. And I think the other one is that when you go to a vote center or the polling place, every system is accessible, every system has languages on it. That people who have any sort of special need do not have to ask for it, it's just right there for them.

Will Butler:

Because if the digital system for printing ballots was truly awesome and sped up the process by a considerable factor, everyone would use it, right?

Whitney Quesenbery:

Of course. And think about it, they're going to be a lot of people showing up for the presidential election. But in 2021, there's going to be municipal elections where there's not a lot of people showing up. I sat for 16 hours in a polling place and we had 165 voters that day. I got a lot of reading done. So in those smaller elections, there's no reason for everybody not to use the ballot marking device if they want to.

Whitney Quesenbery:

In the larger elections, if you have enough of them, then almost everybody can use the ballot [inaudible 01:07:09]. But if there's overflow, the lines start to build up, then you can say, "Hey, we have some paper ballots for people." I mean, so there's ... I think we're going to get a little more flexible but also a little more targeted, I hope.

Will Butler:

Whitney Quesenbery, thank you so much for joining us today and giving us this shot in the arm and this vision of the accessible future for voting. The big take home for me was no matter who you are, go out there and request the accessible voting experience, even if it's just a phone line or the machines, find out what's being offered in your community and demand that works.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Absolutely. Yeah. Thank you Whitney. That was the highlight for me as well. And I definitely am walking away from this interview with a lot of ideas around how I can get more involved, so thank you so much for sharing.

Will Butler:

If y'all see a blind poll worker this season, you'll know that Whitney got to me.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Well, hopefully we'll see more than one.

Will Butler:

Thank you so much to Whitney Quesenbery for joining us to talk about election accessibility. We're going to post a whole bunch of show notes on the page at bemyeyes.com/podcast. Go there to watch videos and listen to talks from people like Michelle Bishop, read the studies about voter turnout and find out really the easiest and most effective ways to go out and vote accessibly. Thanks as always to my co-host, Cordelia McGee-Tubb, our consulting producers, [Sam Greenspan 01:08:41]. Email us via 13letters@bemyeyes.com, and we'll be back next week.