Innovative Practice 2019 on Independent Living and Political Participation

Enabling people with disabilities to vote from home and without assistance

Democracy Live, Inc. – a company based in Seattle, Washington – provides accessible online voting technology for elections. In partnership with Amazon and Microsoft, Democracy Live developed OmniBallot, an accessible online voting system available via computer, tablet, or smartphone, thus enabling people with disabilities to vote from home and to do so independent of support. Since its launch in 2015, over 1 million voters with disabilities have used the system.

“The work of Democracy Live demonstrates that compliance with international standards on accessibility is readily achievable in the elections and voting space.“

Janet LordHarvard Law School Project on Disability
About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:OmniBallot
Organisation:Democracy Live, Inc.
Country
of Implementation
United States

FACTS & FIGURES

  • OmniBallot was first deployed in 2015 in one county in California.
  • In 2018 the system was deployed in over 400 election jurisdictions around the U.S.

PROBLEMS TARGETED

Due to intellectual or physical disabilities as well as limited transportation to and from voting locations, voters with disabilities lack equal access to participating in elections.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

A person with visual impairments voting using the accessible voting device of OmniBallot.OmniBallot is a software tool whereby people are given an online ballot that can be delivered via a tablet, a mobile device, or through the Amazon cloud. The ballots use accessible navigation tools, such as headphones, a key pad, a sip-and-puff joystick (a computer mouse-like device that allows the user to move the cursor), Braille, or any other accessible computer navigation tool. As additional support, OmniBallot offers video guides and an accessible sample ballot to inform and guide voters. Once the ballot has been filled in, voters are directed to print out the ballot and send it to a designated address via regular mail.

Between 2015 and 2018, the system has been applied in over 100 elections in the United States, and it has been used by over 1 million voters with disabilities in 96 countries worldwide.

FUNDING, OUTLOOK AND TRANSFERABILITY

Democracy Live is a privately-held company that contracts with state and local governments, and has received funding from the United States Elections Assistance Commission and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for their accessible voting solutions. Contracts are typically annual and are based on the number of voters in a state or jurisdiction.

The OmniBallot system started in 2015 with one county in California, and as of 2018 has been applied in almost half of all counties in California. Beyond California, Democracy Live accessible voting technologies have been deployed in over 400 election jurisdictions around the U.S.

In addition to its expansion within the United States, the OmniBallot system is available in over 70 languages.

A man using touch screen to access democracy live.

FACTSHEET

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