Coffee with Kalari: My Voting Experience!

This article is part of a weekly series written by Kalari, a writer, athlete, mother and employee of The Chicago Lighthouse who is visually impaired. She shares her perspective on a variety of topics in order to build community.

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With all the dust settling from the election, I decided to share my experience of voting this year. According to the Chicago Board of Elections, all polling places should have the equipment and assistance available to ensure that people with disabilities can cast their vote with ease. In previous years, I always found that on Election Day, my polling place would never have the audio ballot, which is what I use to cast my vote. I started to vote early instead, as my early voting site always had the accessible equipment that I needed.

I Voted, V shape made by canes

Well, this year was quite different. I still chose to vote in-person,  but I went to a different early voting site and did not have a great experience. I had to wait for the audio ballot to be set up, and after waiting it still would not work. The officials at the polling place had no idea on how to activate the ballot. The election officials kept insisting that they could read the ballot to me, but I refused because I wanted to vote in private. Finally, one of the officials figured out how to get the ballot to work, so I was able to vote that day. It was extremely frustrating, and I can see how this could deter individuals who are blind or visually impaired from voting. I refused to give up my right to vote independently.

I heard from a few of my friends who also had the same experience and shared the frustration I held. On the other hand, I also heard good reviews from my friends about the accessibility of their voting sites. I guess I should have gone to my same early voting site, where the election officials know my husband and me. I probably would have had a better experience, but I should not be limited to one site. I should be able to cast my vote anywhere in the city just as anyone else. The Chicago Board of Elections has made great strides, but there is still more work to do in my opinion.

What were your experiences while voting this year? Did you use any of the accessible features at your polling location? I would love to hear your stories!

 

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