Oregon meets the Jetsons: voting by iPad

Carla Axtman

I love how our state pioneers cool and awesome stuff, especially around voter engagement and access.

Jonathan J. Cooper, Associated Press:

Voters in five counties are filling out and returning their mail-in ballots for a Tuesday special primary election to replace former U.S. Rep. David Wu, who resigned following a sex scandal. A handful will mark their ballots not with a pen but with the tip of their finger.

It's the latest attempt at using new technology to help voters with disabilities cast ballots privately.

Armed with iPads and portable printers, county election workers are going to parks, nursing homes, community centers and anywhere else they might find groups of voters who have trouble filling out traditional paper ballots.

Using the iPad, disabled voters can call up the right ballot and tap the screen to pick a candidate, with or without the help of election workers. The voters then print the completed ballot and stuff it in an envelope to sign, take with them and drop in the mail or an official ballot box.

Just as with vote by mail, there will be usual nattering nabobs of negativism who will inevitably screech about vote fraud and pressuring vulnerable people/populations to vote a certain way. And it will be just as unfounded as when they say it around vote by mail. Those arguments are about voter suppression, not about making sure that people can vote fairly and easily.

This is a wonderful innovation that makes it easier for people to vote. Yay Oregon!

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    I'd like to know how much money was spent on them just because they're "iPads" rather than using a much less expensive alternative technology. If they were paid for with tax money, I'm appalled. Apple products, with their high "design" premium have no place in government, where money needs to be spent wisely.

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      To which "less expensive alternative technology" do you refer, exactly? The piece itself says that the iPad was "relatively low cost".

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        I'm sure something other than iPads could be used. If not a cheaper tablet, then something non-electronic even. My opinion is based on the general sale cost of iPads though, which is certainly not low cost; but I have no idea what the counties/state actually paid for them, and would like to know.

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        Scratch my previous comment, it appears from the article that they ARE being bought at consumer cost. Granted it's not very many, but it's still a few hundred excessive dollars.

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          I'm stumped as to how you can categorize the cost as "excessive" when you admittedly have no idea what they cost to purchase.

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            As I just said, they are being bought at consumer cost. That's about $500 a piece. If they had not developed the software to run on iPads, they could have used WebOS or Android tablets, for half or less of that.

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              No. They're not being bought at consumer cost. From the story I linked:

              "Apple Inc., which makes the iPad, has donated five of the devices for the experiment, and the state spent about $75,000 to develop the software. Oregon would need at least 72 iPads, two per county, to bring the program statewide, Trout said.

              At $500 each, the state could buy the iPads for about $36,000. Portable printers cost about $50 each, Trout said, or counties can use existing printers from their offices. The cost of software is still unknown."

              This county in Florida figured it would cost them $3.5 million to purchase the necessary equipment to allow disabled citizens to vote:


              The estimated cost for the State of North Carolina to purchase disabled accessible voting machines was $145 million:


              Seems like $36k would be relatively cheap, should the state decide to go that route.

              There are some off-brand junk tablets that are in the $300 range, but I wouldn't want the state investing in something that may or may not hold up.

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                Liberals just love Apple. Developing software for the relatively closed architecture of the Apple OS is in fact limiting. A lot of dependable manufacturers could have provided a hardware to run such a simple app. That kind of flexibility allows capitalism to work its magic. I know how much you all hate capitalism but it would be nice if you could acknowledge that it might have a place in bidding on government contracts.

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                  So wait...let me get this straight:

                  Apple donates iPads to help disabled people have access to voting, and this is a bad thing.

                  No wonder conservatives in Oregon continue to lose.

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                    They donated a handful so that the state would develop the software on the Apple OS. A crack dealer gives away the first couple rocks too, that's how it works.

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                  I didn't realize that preference of consumer electronics had become so politicized! This is particularly bad news for me as I am liberal but dislike Apple. I guess I will be forced to choose between the two...

                  Seriously though, it's been simultaneously funny and disheartening to watch how the definition of capitalism has evolved in the conservative dialect over the past couple of years. I'm pretty sure that a private company taking advantage of an opportunity with a potential client is capitalistic. It's not like the state elections department announced that they were going to develop and produce their own tablet device from scratch.

                  Furthermore, if you read the article, the total cost of the making the project statewide is about $111,000. In the last two year budget cycle, the state spent $325,000 on accessible voting tools. So it already seems like a pretty good deal. Do you have any evidence the same results could be achieved for less using a different tablet? Most other tablets are already in the same price range, and there's probably way more people developing iPad apps out there than than on other systems, which is where the bulk of the cost is anyways.

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                  Wow. What a stunningly incoherent rant, devoid of.. well anything resembling a cogent point or assessment of reality.

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    The teabagger ghosts are out tonight, a halloween hangover undoubtedly. I mean really... a liberal/Apple/ipad conspiracy to actually help citizens exercise their constitutional right to vote. Scary indeed......

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    As a liberal who doesn't like Apple products, may I still second Carla's "Yay Oregon!". It's an experiment, let's see how it works. And if Toshiba or someone else had stepped up and offered to donate their tablets, I'm guessing Oregon might have tried theirs as well or instead of Apples. And there's nothing that says Oregon can't decide to go with a different tablet if they choose in the future. Even reworking the software wouldn't be as expensive as what other states are spending.

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    One small amendment: the big cost here is not going to be the technology, it is going to be the staffing.

    The disabled access machines referred to above by Carla in NC and FL were DREs purchased for counties and polling places, and these can be (and often are) redeployed for use by non-disabled voters.

    -- TA let's avoid an easily checked overstatment. It's a fine initiative, but check your numbers. At current count, there are 140,000 apps for the iPad by Apple's own count. There are 200,000 apps for the Android.

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